Posted January 20, 2009 in Film

Filmmakers Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath met 23 years ago when she was a young documentarian just starting out and he was a Laotian immigrant and Brooklyn street thug crowned by a hairstyle I haven’t seen since Lou Diamond Phillips disappeared. The oldest son of 10 children of an abducted Laotian soldier who had fought alongside the secret American forces and a protective, unschooled mother, Thavi was only 12-years-old when a fortune teller insisted he make the dangerous swim across the river to Thailand if he wanted to survive the communist Pathet Lao who rose to power preaching peace and immediately about-faced and imprisoned any potential enemies. Two years later, his family—at least, what they could find of it in the hour window they were given—escaped to Thailand in a leaky boat, and then relocated to a block in America where their bonds were strained by a life as equally desperate and violent. The betrayal of the title is America’s, who denied involvement in Laos, denied protection to their former soldiers, and denied help for those who made it out safely. Cutting together decades of footage of the Phrasavath family with disavowals of their crisis from three US presidents, this is a doc that wears its viewpoint on its sleeve—but it’s a viewpoint worth watching as it plays out with a commendable degree of honesty and drama. (Amy Nicholson)



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