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Satu – Year of the Rabbit

Two starry-eyed fantasists help each other as they face the bumpy road ahead, in this classic coming-of-age tale set in the mountains and the jungle of Northern Laos - from the 32nd edition of Raindance

[dropcapp]T[/dropcap]his is a sensitive story about loss, abandonment, and abuse. Resilience and courage are used as the foundation. It’s an impressive feat for the foreign director – a man from the Welsh mountains – to craft a film that is so genuinely authentic, heartfelt, and pure, with tonnes of adventure, while also managing to project the beauty this country offers. Maybe it does take an outsider to fully appreciate the landscape of a place that others might take for granted. Trigg shot on 16mm film in just 26 days. The film team visited the Laotian capital Vientiane, the mountains surrounding Vang Vieng, several monasteries and remote remote villages in order to capture the energy and scope that makes a road movie..

We follow 17-year-old Bo (Vanthiva Saysana). The young girl is still reeling from her mother’s death and decides to escape her abusive father so she can pursue a dream career as a photojournalist. She steals his moped for the journey, and she sets her sights on Hanoi, Vietnam, where she can enrol in a new school and start a new life of enrichment. From the first moment of Bo’s travels, you get a sense of how gorgeous this country truly is, with the establishing shots of the nearby mountains and dense jungle being thrust into our souls. The two protagonists embark on a magical ride and forge a friendship that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. The perfect ingredients for a road movie

It’s not long before Bo meets 12-year-old Satu (Itthiphone Sonepho), in a nearby Buddhist temple. He is an orphan abandoned at the temple by his mother. He longs to discover who he is and where he’s from. He joins Bo on her travels up north as they both seek answers. Bo must take pictures for a photojournalist job application, and so she turns her lens towards her younger friend. The images are accompanied by blurb, narrating the adventure from Satu’s perspective. A poignant story-within-the-story. The road trip is not without challenges: kidnappers, police searches, wrong directions almost sending them offtrack, etc. Yet this strong-willed duo will stop at nothing before they achieve their objectives.

The relationship between Bo and Satu is very dynamic, and they enjoy a fraternal type of bond. Saysana’s and Sonepho’s strong acting skills are vital. The fact they were amateurs makes it even more impressive. Perhaps it is the lack of experience is what makes the characters authentic. They possess the innate curiosity and playful nature of young people. The writing provides them with the sense of maturity required for the complex narrative. Trigg’s previous experience filming in Laos allowed the director to completely hone in on Bo and Satu’s personalities. This genuineness is the film’s greatest strength.

Thus is a movie stunning to look at, with its tawny hues and grainy textures. Its wonderfully curated score treats the ears well, too. But it’s ultimately the multithreaded story and the complex characters that make the film powerful. The dual storyline send you off on a spin, thinking that the action is taking place in tandem, before a subtle twist reveals otherwise.

Satu – Year of the Rabbit premieres during the 32nd edition of Raindance. This is Joshua Trigg’s first feature film. The London-based artist is best known for his commercials. With such an effortless enjoyable debut, one has to wonder what’s next in this promising career. Here’s hoping his newfound love for Laos forces him to stay in Southeast Asia and explore it deeper.


By John McDonald - 12-06-2024

Failing from the seaside town of Southport but now living in Liverpool, John McDonald has had a passion for cinema since he was a small child. The westerns of John Wayne were his gateway into the cine...

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