My film festival experience got off to a great start with the Australian film, The Rocket.
Early in the day, I saw via the Philadelphia Film Festival’s daily email, that the film was sold out. I was curious as to why because in my experience, films shown early in the day never sell out. A few minutes before the film began, they announced that 100 school students were attending. Later in the day, I heard people complaining about the students being noisy but, all things considers (i.e. there were 100 of them), they weren’t particularly disruptive and it was encouraging how they got into the film. People complained that the students were reacted to things happening in the film but I thought that was great. I’m not sure how old the students were but I’m guessing in the 12-14 years old range. As a film enthusiast, I think exposing students to a film they would not ordinarily get to see is a wonderful thing. This is how we make future film enthusiasts.
Anyway, The Rocket, directed by Kim Mordaunt, was wonderful. Set in Laos, it focuses on the life of young Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe) born a twin whose brother was stillborn. His grandmother holds the superstition that every set of twins has one who is blessed and one who is cursed. Not knowing which twin survived, she wants to kill the newborn but his mother refuses to allow her to do so. During his young life, Ahlo is seen as the cause of anything bad that happens to the family. He is seen as bad luck source even for things clearly out of his control. His family is forced to relocate from their village because the power company is building a new damn that will flood the area. This events sets off a string of tragic events forcing the family to the road where they eventually end up at a village that holds a rocket building contest that Ahlo enters to prove that he is not unlucky.
Everything about this film worked for me. The child actors are exceptional. The tension between Ahlo and his family is palpable. The plot is constantly engaging and never sags. Twists that would seem contrived and corny is lesser hands feel inevitable. The cinematography is often stunning.
Using the festival’s scoring system, I ranked this Excellent or 5 out of a possible 5.
Check out all my 2013 Philadelphia Film Festival posts!