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Rocket, The


Stars: Sitthiphon Disamoe, Loungnam Kaosainam, Thep Phongam, Bunsri Yindi, Sumrit Warin, Alice Kohavong

Director: Kim Mordaunt

The innate charm of 10-year-old ‘hero’ Ahlo, allied with an acute sense of the less-than-enviable lives of the impoverished rural dwellers in contemporary Laos and vivid location cinematography (Andrew Commis) gives Australian documentary filmmaker John Mordaunt’s first fictional movie as writer-and director a potent sense of reality which adds to a story whose telling subtext – the exploitation of indigenous poor by international Big Business – is powerfully put over within the basic context of a delightful story about the adventures of Tom Sawyer-style Ahlo, captivatingly played by Sitthiphon Disamoe.

Thanks to his acid-faced grandmother’s claims, young Ahlo, who survives when his twin bother dies at birth, is believed by villagers to be a bringer of bad luck responsible for a series of disasters, a case ‘proved’ yet again when his family lose their home as the result of the building of a dam and end up on a calamity-prone trek through war-ravaged countryside where Ahlo makes friends with young orphan Kia and her offbeat James Brown-worshipping uncle who (amusingly played by veteran actor and comedian Thep Phongam) becomes the lad’s mentor.

At the climax of this odyssey, Ahlo (helped by Phongam) constructs a giant rocket (learning in the process that urine is a vital additive to home-made explosives) and enters the prestigious Rocket Festival as a contestant to prove he is no harbinger of ill luck…

The Rocket has a skilful blend of picaresque charm with unexpectedly harsh social comment, making its welcome impact - despite the essentially light-heartedness of Ahlo’s journey - avoid sugariness and create a sometimes sharp, if sentimental, feel-good pleasure.

Alan Frank

Australia/Laos/Thailand 2013. UK Distributor: Eureka. Colour.
95 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 16 Mar 2014