E.J. DE LARA WRITES – Looks like The Rocket didn’t take off, at least not in Laos.
In a country where media is government controlled, Laotian authorities banned the distribution and showing of the internationally acclaimed film, The Rocket. The controversial work exposes ongoing problems in Laos caused by residual effects of the Vietnam War and the government’s exploitation of the poor.
According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, 270 million cluster bombs were dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War 40 years ago, and many still remain undiscovered. Unexploded ordinance is one of the main causes of poverty and lack of land development in rural areas. Australian director Kim Mordaunt captures this, among other problems, in his film.
Taking place in Laos, the film revolves around a 10-year-old Laotian boy, Ahlo, and his family. They are forced to leave their village, as it must be torn down for dam construction. Due to government restriction of several areas for infrastructure and for fear of leftover bombs, the family has a difficult time finding a permanent home to restart their lives. Eventually, they settle in another rural village.
The movie tells the endearing story of how Ahlo makes the best of his situation and works with his family to join a rocket competition. The Director, Kim Mordaunt, effectively shows the limitations the boy faces due to lack a of land and resources because of the government’s routine exploitation and disregard for the Laotian poor.
With its powerful theme and storyline, the movie has received international acclaim, but according to the Otago Daily Times, the Laotian government has banned the movie for portraying the harsh realities faced by those in poverty. With the Vientiane Times reporting on the government’s recent progress in reducing poverty rates, it makes sense for authorities to block a film that portrays the government in a negative light. Media sources such as Radio Free Asia reported last month that the Laotian media has hidden the repressive and abusive actions of the government towards the poor. Naturally, citizens are demanding change, or at the very least, the truth.
Mordaunt understands that the film is too political for the government to be shown in Laos, but is proud of the international impact of the film. Whether the film accurately portrays the ongoing problems in Laos or not, the Laotian government is unlikely to allow the film to be publicly shown in any manner for the time being.