Thursday, September 10, 2020

Movie with Abe: Buoyancy

Directed by Rodd Rathjen
Released September 11, 2020

Many people dream of a better life and are told that it can be easily found in another place. The saying “the grass is greener on the other side” stems from the notion that what one person doesn’t have looks or sounds more appealing. Traveling to a city or country that is described as a paradise or haven for happiness from somewhere else that doesn’t feel like that is rarely easy, and as many who try unfortunately learn, there is quite often a high price to pay for freedom and luxuries that should be universally available.

Chakra (Sarm Heng) works in the rice fields in Cambodia, unable to understand why his parents chose to have more children than they are adequately able to support. Frustrated and inspired by stories of success in Thailand, Chakra sets out to go there. With no money to pay for his passage, he is forced to work aboard a Thai fishing boat to pay off his debt, which he is told will take just one month. As the days go by, Chakra witnesses the brutal treatment and murder of other Cambodian and Burmese men by the tyrannical boat captain, Rom Ran (Thanawut Ketsaro), who takes a liking to Chakra when he sees the survival instincts the fourteen-year-old boy possesses in an unimaginable and truly inescapable situation.

There are so many stories to be told about the perils of illegal immigration all across the world. In this case, Chakra isn’t fleeing persecution or violence but instead poverty, and he naively believes, like countless others, that he will be released from his indentured servitude when the agreed-upon term of service is done. What Chakra sees aboard the boat is horrific, but there is also a sense of sincere isolation that comes from its constant movement at sea, far both from the home he left and the land he so desperately wants to reach. Even if he manages not to get thrown overboard or beaten by his cruel captors, Chakra is still physically trapped in the middle of an ocean.

This film was Australia’s official selection for Best International Feature for last year’s Oscar race, a strong portrait of human trafficking that doesn’t shy away from harsh visuals and irreversibly scarring events. Heng delivers a remarkably impressive breakout turn as Chakra, conveying a yearning for something more while he feels powerless to avoid his fate. Ketsaro portrays a compelling villain who seeks not only to dehumanize Chakra but also to corrupt him and turn him into a worthy successor. This film is affecting, unpleasant, and important, shining a critical representative spotlight on the plight of many real victims of human trafficking.


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