Tribeca Film Festival 2013
By Don Simpson | April 26, 2013
Director: Kim Mordaunt
Writer: Kim Mordaunt
Starring: Sitthiphon Disamoe, Loungnam Kaosainam, Alice Keohavong, Thep Phongam, Sumrit Warin, Bunsri Yindi
On the fateful night that Ahlo is delivered into this world, he is followed by a stillborn sibling. Surprisingly, Ahlo’s curmudgeonly grandmother (Bunsri Yindi) wants to kill Ahlo instantly. This is because the folklore of their Laotian tribe states that twins always include one child who will be bad luck. It is much easier to kill both babies than to wait and see which twin will be the unlucky one. Luckily for Ahlo, his mother (Alice Keohavong) will not let him die.
Several years later, an Australian energy company arrives in their village to announce that a new dam will flood the entire region. So, Ahlo’s (Sitthiphon Disamoe) tribe is relocated to a new location where a new home with electricity and water is promised to every family. The energy conglomerate obviously does not follow through with any of their promises and Ahlo’s knack for clumsiness — or just plain old bad luck — quickly gets his family permanently ostracized from their ramshackle ghetto.
Ahlo’s friend Kia (Loungnam Kaosainam) and her James Brown-obsessed uncle (Thep Phongam) join Ahlo’s family in search for a fertile plot of land to claim as their own and plant mangoes. For part of the journey, they travel hidden in the bed of a truck alongside salvaged live bombs which are loaded into the truck by elephants. (One of the many absurd flares of The Rocket.) Eventually, they arrive in a village which is about to celebrate a “Rocket Festival.” Ahlo knows that his one chance of redeeming all of the bad luck he has brought upon his family is to win the significant cash prize for the best rocket (preferably the rocket that incites rain showers).
You might think that a film titled The Rocket in which the protagonist is first introduced to us by his grandmother as “little balls” (because, presumably, Ahlo has big balls) might be some kind of soft core porn flick, but it is actually quite the bombastic family movie. Written and directed by Australian filmmaker Kim Mordaunt, The Rocket is a feel good movie that is not ashamed of its political agenda. The Rocket is very clearly about the destruction of tribal societies for the betterment of the modern world, but the message is made all the more palatable as Mordaunt conveys it from a young Laotian boy’s perspective. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Ahlo has the biggest balls of them all.