Down Under's Kim Mordaunt makes a sweet, scenic, politically tinged coming-of-age drama that has viable possibilities for a Best Foreign Language nominee.
The Rocket- Bang fai (fully subtitled and an Australia, Laos, and Thailand co-production) works well off of guilt and redemption as well as metaphorical resonance from the most bombed (per capita) country in the world, notably when the Viet Cong was targeted over the border by B-52 bombers over four decades ago.
Here, Laotian myth comes into play with its roots in that secret Strategic Air Command mission with their 'sleeping tigers' as a suspected 'cursed' 10-year-old Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe) attempts to prove otherwise. The twin whose stillborn sibling left him in an estranged, judgmental disposition with his father (Sumrit Warin) and malignant-minded grandmother (Bunsri Yindi) isn't favored by certain Buddhists and animists as an Australian dam project energizes corporate ventures more than the locals who'll need to relocate.
The filmmaker, also the scenarist, underscores the leftist leanings with a sensitivity around an actual annual eponymous contest (filmed by Andrew Commis) which perhaps could induce much-needed rainfall into a drought-stricken land. If the ambitious Ahlo can win it much misery could be mitigated notwithstanding his culpability in the adventitious death of his mother Mali (Alice Keohavong).
The untrained Disamoe, a real-life street urchin, turns out to be a blessing in what will require more than a token of suspension of disbelief for certain discerning patrons in conveying a lot even for the most cynical of those threatened by an imperialist destiny. As expressive and charming as the boy is in the best this cinematic greeting card can offer, he is given gracious backup by Loungnam Kaosainam and Thep Phongam as Ahlo's close orphan friend Kia and her hard-drinking, James Brown-obsessed uncle Purple, respectively. Mordaunt's impressive, intimate relating gives the third-world a gratifying, crowd pleasing soulfulness above conventionality and the armaments of covert carpet-bombing.