This reviewer struggles to recall a reception as deservedly enthusiastic as that given this internationally acclaimed story set in rural Laos at its June premiere at Sydney Film Festival.

It’s a charming and visually appealing tale filled with energy, humour and heart, yet without a hint of sentimentality. The story revolves around a young boy named Ahlo, quickly pronounced by his stern grandmother to be a bad-luck charm when his twin brother is stillborn.

When a major dam-building project forces Ahlo’s family to move from its village to a temporary camp, the boy undergoes a series of adventures including a family tragedy; his befriending of a young girl and her James Brown-fixated uncle; and the family’s ejection from the camp. These climax in his spectacular efforts to win a village rocket competition and put his alleged curse behind him.

An intriguing feature of this apparently authentic film is that it turns out to be the product of an Australian creative team, writer-director Kim Mordaunt and producer Sylvia Wilczynski, making their feature debut following an acclaimed documentary about unexploded munitions in Laos (a sub-theme here), Bomb Harvest. They have pulled off one of the most unusual and appealing Australian productions of recent years.


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