Betrayal (NERAKHOON) is a life’s work. Made over 23 years, this film transcends the many genres it employs - experimental, poetic, narrative, verite - into an epic story about loyalty, memory, pain and love.
I have seen nothing quite like it, and that’s probably because the subject of the film, Thavisouk Phrasavath, transformed into the film’s co-director and editor over the decades of production.
“After going through 5 editors who just couldn’t get us what we were looking for,” Thavisouk explained to the audience after a tearful and moving standing ovation, “I tried my hand at the editing machine while Ellen was off on a shoot. I asked someone how to use the buttons on the machine, and when Ellen came back I showed her what I had done. She told me it was great except for the jump cuts. I asked her ‘what’s a jump cut?’”
The first 30 minutes or so are a bit tough to get through, it’s the back story, using mostly voice-over narration, archival and poetic recreations. But once this story picks up where the verite shooting begins, circa 1985, this film flies off the screen.
The film traces the tragic journey of a mother and her 8 children from war-torn Laos to the slums of New York City over two decades. The narrative p.o.v. is situated from within the memory of the eldest son. This is juxtaposed with verite footage of his many, deeply moving kitchen table conversations with his mother as the two struggle to keep the family together, to keep the family alive. The camera is there at the most incredible moments of the family’s life, while the narrative shifts to bring you in and out in with the utmost respect, sophistication and humanity. A phenomenal story, and phenomenal storytelling.
The film repeats this Sunday, April 27 at 2 pm at the Al Greene Theatre.
Add comment April 25th, 2008