57th LFF – Journey to Thrill

I saw two interesting films yesterday. One was brilliant, the other was thrilling but not brilliant. The strap line for Journey is: “whether it’s the journey or the destination films to transport you and shift your perspective”. In my view that is what films should do anyway, but they have to think of something.

So The Rocket a film by Kim Mordaunt. Actually, I am not going to tell you about the film except to say that it has general release and should be coming to our screens somewhere in January 2014. Watch out for it, it is a peach. I shall tell you instead about the Q&A, since you are not likely to get a chance to hear Kim Mordaunt yourselves.

If you look KM up in the Website IMDb [which is a brilliant website if you haven’t yet discovered it] you will see that he has made several films, and also that The Rocket has already won a lot of prizes. But the main reason that KM was allowed to make this film in Laos, a notoriously secretive and inward looking country is that he made a documentary called Bomb Harvest in 2007 which was part of his on-going obsession with post-war damage in countries around the world, like Laos, where unexploded bombs lie half buried where they fell, and cluster bombs lie around like small footballs causing untold damage and loss of limb if they go off, often because they are picked up by children.

The collecting of these bombs plays a part in the drama of The Rocket.

In the Q&A, KM was asked about the actors in the drama, were they professional or were the children ones he had picked up and used for the film? The adults were actors, of a kind, yes. The father in the film, Sumrit Warin has been a stunt man, and couldn’t believe he had won this part…his wife Mali, played by Alice Keohavong is a Laotian who lives and works in Thailand, the grandmother played by Bunsri Yindi also a Laotian living in Thailand, this is her first film and she only began her acting career at 50! There are two children in this story – Ahlo and Kia, both of the children were selected solely on the basis of their personalities. Ahlo, played by Sitthiphon Disamoe was a street urchin, since the filming ended he is being cared for and educated with funds from this movie under the aegis of Childcare Worldwide WA and Western Australian charity looking after abandoned and needy children all over the world. The funds from the film will see Sitthiphon and Loungnam Kaosainam, who plays Kia, through their education and into tertiary education if that is what they need.

The interesting thing was that in the original film script the boy was the dreamy one and the girl was the go-getter; on the basis of their characters, KM reversed the roles. Sitthiphon turned out to be a perfect diamond, learning to swim and swimming underwater like a fish within the space of three months. There is a marvellous underwater sequence which is brilliantly filmed, and is also actual filmed in a drowned temple.

The Rocket is also a film about the displaced villagers, whose lands and villages are being drowned in the building of huge hydro-electric dams, a corporate enterprise that benefits the losers hardly at all, as we see in the film – unfulfilled promises, carried forward on the point of a gun. The Laotian Government are conflict averse so any political or contentious point made in this film was refused permission, and was filmed in Thailand as near to the Laos border as is possible.

I am awaiting confirmation of the exact charity that is supporting these two children before I put up a link.

The second film I saw yesterday is even more difficult to describe. The title is a bit of a giveaway: All is Lost. The film opens 1700 nautical miles from land in the Indian Ocean, something floats past…quite what it is we cannot make out, well I couldn’t anyway. The voice-over tells us that all is lost, they were right and everything has turned out for the worst, sorry, sorry, sorry.

We then jump back eight days. What can one say about a film with one actor, even if it is Robert Redford, an empty ocean, doom laden music (brilliantly composed by Alex Ebert) and a title like ‘all is lost’? The strap line for Thrill is “nerve-shredders that’ll get your adrenalin pumping and keep you on the edge of your seat”. This film did that at least. If you have ever sailed, even on a small pond you will know that if things begin to go wrong, they can go very wrong quite quickly; it follows that if you are in the Indian Ocean and something goes wrong…

I have never personally understood the charms and excitements of solo-navigation; I can just about see the point if you are racing, but barely. Robert Redford doesn’t seem to be in a race, he is merely on his own in a large yacht.

I once heard Libby Purves on Midweek, BBC Radio 4, interview a solo-yachtswoman (sadly I cannot remember her name) whose race had gone badly wrong when her yacht had capsized in the Atlantic; her yacht has righted itself several times and she had time to radio for help and give her co-ordinates, and finally when her boat turned turtle and didn’t right itself, she sat on the hull singing “I will survive”, a song made popular by Gloria Gaynor in the 1980s, now one of the most popular songs on Karaoke nights! She survived. Obviously!

Robert Redford didn’t do that, but in the struggle to survive there was little time for emotion or introspection, so it was a rather stolid performance. Mind you, he made some pretty classic errors that no doubt contributed to his predicament; in all the time he never put on a life jacket – do solo-yachtsmen scorn such things, and frequently went about his boat without a safety tie, the life saving link that if you are swept overboard gives you a fighting chance of staying with your boat. Luckily, he had attached himself on the one occasion when he was swept over the side – how prescient of him! He also learned to use a brand new sextant to plot his course, a navigational skill that you cannot manage looking at a textbook, and taking readings…this is a “FICTION – do not try this at sea” moment, not unlike the new advertisement for a well-known brand of car!

I am not really knocking this film, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and practically screaming advice at Our Man, luckily I remembered I was not on the sofa at home! Like many films I have seen so far it has a message…but see the film and you will get that message loud and clear.

You will have heard about the plastic ducks which are now circling the oceans, and the plimsolls and trainers – how do you think they got there?

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Filed under Culture, General cinema, Select Cinema, Travel, Uncategorized

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