The Rocket

According to Laotian folklore, when twins are born one brings a curse and the other a blessing; so after little Ahlo arrives and his brother is stillborn, his superstitious grandmother expects the worst. Several years later their village in the northern mountains is evacuated to make way for a dam, and as Ahlo’s family is relocated to a new area, a string of terrible misfortunes convinces the old woman her fears are being realized. Australian writer-director Kim Mordaunt might have guaranteed a much wider audience for this excellent family film had he cast it with English-speaking actors, yet the story is so firmly rooted in Laotian culture and topography that even its feel-good ending—involving a severe drought and a local contest to build a cloud-seeding rocket—seems to bloom right out of the landscape. In Lao with subtitles.