Billed as the first feature film set and shot in Laos, “The Rocket” is an engrossing drama about the shifting sands on which a family and a culture must find their footing.
The story’s focus is on Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe), a 10-year-old who is considered bad luck by his superstitious grandmother Taitok (Bunsri Yindi), especially so when Ahlo’s mother, Mali (Alice Keohavong), is killed during a forced relocation due to a new hydroelectric dam upstream from their village.
As Ahlo’s father, Toma (Sumrit Warin), seeks a new place to live, Ahlo thinks he’s found the solution: Win a nearby town’s annual rocket festival, which offers a big cash prize to the rocketeer whose projectile flies the highest.
Australian writer-director Kim Mordaunt neatly captures the small details of Laotian life, of village shrines and unexploded bombs, as global progress smacks into local traditions.
Opens today at the Tower Theatre; not rated, but probably R for nudity, a childbirth scene, violence and crude humor; in Lao, with subtitles; 92 minutes.