AUSTRALIAN writer/director Kim Mordaunt’s film set in Laos begins with Mali giving birth to Ahlo.
Lao custom holds that one of twins brings good fortune, the other, evil. Grandmother Taitok believes the second baby, strangled by his umbilical cord, was the good one. A decade later, during relocation before a new hydro-electric dam submerges the village, Mali dies in an accident for which Taitok holds Ahlo responsible.
The film constructs powerful visual and narrative images. Drought makes the new location economically crippling. The only relief from depression is the forthcoming rocket festival, where home-made rockets compete for a big cash prize.
Together with the orphaned girl Kia (Loungnam Kaosainam) and the boozy Purple (Thep Phongam), who remembers war too clearly, Ahlo (played with style and energy by Sittiphon Disamoe) sets about making a rocket.
Mordaunt led his film to a denouement that’s important less for our enjoyment of a charming, often disturbing story than our admiration for Ahlo’s dogged resolve to defy adult opposition.
It’s a film to love for what it gives us immediately while watching it and what it leaves us to savour after it ends. It has won a slew of Festival awards. Wouldn’t it be something and a half if a low-budget Aussie movie got nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the next Academy Awards?
At Palace Electric, from August 29