Directed by Australian filmmaker Kim Mordaunt and making its debut at the Berlin Film Festival, The Rocket is truly an extraordinary movie.
Taking place in the jungle of rural Laos (pockmarked with mines and other remains from the long-term wars), The Rocket wraps its story around the scrappy ten year-old Ahlo. Born as a twin, his brother dies at birth and Ahlo is raised by his mother, father and always grumpy, opium-smoking grandma. The old woman truly believes he was supposed to die too: according to the local beliefs, one of the twins is blessed and the other is cursed. After Ahlo’s village is displaced to make way for a massive dam, the family packs up to start a new life in a “promised land” with electricity and running water. But his mother dies in an accident on the way and the cloud of the allegations that Ahlo is cursed grows darker and darker.
At the new community camp, which is far from paradise, Ahlo meets new friends – the adorable little girl Kia and her eccentric James Brown-loving uncle. However, Ahlo is a trouble maker and the two families are forced to escape the camp, looking for a better place with fertile soil and clean water. Hitchhiking to their destination, they come across a rocket festival that offers a lucrative but dangerous chance for a new beginning: a large cash prize for the biggest and most powerful rocket that will bring rain to the dry land. With the help of the eccentric Uncle Purple, Ahlo will build his own rocket, but will he succeed to prove his worth to the family and break the spell?
Despite an unsteady beginning, The Rocket captures a powerful and inspiring story, guiding the viewers to exotic lands full of magic, myths and superstitions. The characters played mostly by amateur actors are vivid, strong and original. The tale is interesting and maintains a fair amount of suspense; even the few disturbing parts (when the grandmother calls Ahlo “little balls”, or the two kids watch Buddhist monks playing with giant phallus statues) go smoothly and seem authentic. The Rocket is beautifully shot and a must-see for all the lovers of indie cinema, especially those who think they’ve seen it all.
The Rocket is released nationwide on 14th March 2014.
Read our interview with director Kim Mordaunt here.
Watch the trailer for The Rocket here: