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'The Rocket' paints a vividly colorful exaggeration of Laotian culture

 Loungnam Kaosainam as Kia and Sitthiphon Disamoe as Ahlo in THE ROCKET, a film by Kim Mordaunt.
Loungnam Kaosainam as Kia and Sitthiphon Disamoe as Ahlo in THE ROCKET, a film by Kim Mordaunt.Tom Greenwood

The Rocket

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The Rocket, a modern day fable set in Laos, is now playing at Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinemas in San Francisco, and Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley. Written and directed by Kim Mordaunt, The Rocket is Australia's official submission for Best Foreign Language Film consideration. While the film did not receive an Oscar nomination, it's definitely worth seeing.

The poignant and ultimately uplifting drama focuses on a young boy named Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe) who is thought to be cursed. He is resented by his own stubborn grandmother and ostracized by his village, as he befriends a young girl named Kia (Loungnam Kaosainam) and her alcoholic, James Brown-obsessed "Uncle Purple" (Thep Phongam) Struggling to find the means to start anew, Ahlo convinces his family to let him enter The Rocket Festival. Finding an unlikely mentor in Uncle Purple, Ahlo uses his youthful ingenuity to amass dangerous, potentially deadly materials to build a prize-winning rocket. If he succeeds, he will reverse the poor luck of his family and even the greater community.

Shot with extraordinary colors and culturally rich cinematography, The Rocket is a compelling drama and emotional saga. While the story certainly exaggerates reality a bit, it paints a vivid portrait of a culture not often represented in the media. The acting is convincing, and the film could easily stand up against any other foreign films released this past year.