Sunday, May 04, 2008

Laos and The Movies!

I've mentioned this a few times before I'm sure, but one of the movies coming out soon to watch for is Nerakhoon (The Betrayal) by Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath.

Nerakhoon was shown to great acclaim this year at the Sundance Film Festival and was a 'Best of the Fest' selection at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.

I had a chance to see it last year at the International Conference On Lao Studies in Arizona, and it's really quite moving and worth seeing.

Go see it, if you can.


And that's a great lead into other Hollywood movies that have involved Laos.

A big buzz has been building around Clint Eastwood's upcoming Gran Torino, in which he supposedly plays a bigot whose perspective is changed when he runs into a Hmong family, and news that we may soon see an adaptation of the Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

Note: There's a fun counter-rumor going around that Gran Torino is actually the next Dirty Harry film. Ah, Hollywood, the games you play. :)

Now, it would be extra fun if it turns out to be both (which, if you've seen the previous Dirty Harry films is not beyond the realm of possibility.)


Robert Downey, Jr. is currently making a big name for himself as a great Iron Man.

Interestingly he was also a part of the dud Air America with Mel Gibson, in which he played an idealistic young pilot going to work with the CIA's secret airline during the war for Laos during the 1960s and 70s.

You can spot the trailer here:

Frankly, the real story was far more interesting. You can visit the real Air America veterans website at:


More recently, the more-acclaimed Rescue Dawn was released, although I haven't gotten around to seeing it yet.

Based on Herzog's earlier 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs To Fly, Christian Bale and Steve Zahn star in Rescue Dawn, recounting the true story of German-born Dieter Dengler, who dreamed of being a pilot and eventually made his way to the United States, where he joined the military during the Vietnam War era. He was shot down over Laos and captured. Eventually he organized an escape with a small band of captives.


For me, there are two other older movies that come immediately to mind having been set in Laos: Bat 21 and Missing In Action. Unfortunately, neither one of these two films really give you much of a sense of the real Laos.

There's an argument we should count Apocalypse Now, which many point out: While officially set in Cambodia, it actually references more elements relevant to the war in Laos and the activities of larger than life figures like Tony Poe. But I digress.

I guess the take-away from this so far is that it might be nice to see a film about Laos that doesn't automatically require an airplane crash or American soldiers in trouble. It's kind of been done to death, folks.


The first 'film' I ever saw about Laos is the 1983 made-for-tv movie "Love Is Forever."

It was a fun love story/action film about an Australian journalist played by Michael Landon in Laos who is declared Persona Non Grata by the government and kicked out.

He then fights against the odds to get back into Laos to escape with the love of his life, a woman named Keo Sirisomphone played by Moira Chen aka Laura Gemser.

As I look at it now, it really does have several of my favorite actors including Edward 'The Equalizer' Woodward and Jurgen 'Das Boot' Prochnow. By most accounts, the DVD and VHS versions of the film are terrible, which is a pity. But for many of us, it was great just seeing a film set in Laos back then.

And the climactic scene where they escape via the Mekong is still a classic to those who remember it.


In another note, thanks goes to fellow bloggers at Racialicious and Angry Asian Man for pointing out the recent development with Hmong/Thai actress Brenda Song.

You can see the link here:

Poor Brenda has to go to court to sue the jacka$$es who stole the Disney star's photo to advertise for adult escort entertainment services, renaming her Layla, a [sic] "Hawaiin beauty," apparently thinking no one would notice.

Brenda's real work is in fact for Disney fare like Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior and other kids shows.

I can see why she might be upset.

My feelings about the stereotypes and cliches and tired tropes present in Wendy Wu are well documented, but still, we hope it's only a matter of time before Brenda breaks out into even bigger roles.

But anyway, that's some fun stuff for the day!

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