Published May 06, 2008The father of co-director Thavisouk Phrasavath helped the CIA during the U.S. militarys secret operations in Laos in the early 70s. Essentially, at the height of the Vietnam War, Phrasavath senior helped America bomb his own country to keep out the reds. Its no surprise then that when the Americans withdrew, the Communists took over and imprisoned Phrasavaths father as an enemy of the state.
At age 12, Phrasavath became the father figure to his eight siblings and with his mother made a harrowing escape from Thailand. His resilient but politically naïve mother chose the U.S. as their new home, expecting America to reward the family for their loyalty. Instead, their sponsor crammed the entire family into a single room inside a roach-infested crack house.
Remarkably, the film shifts from a political tale to an immigrant story as Phrasavath struggles to keep his family together in a hostile land. However, America is not the only betrayal Phrasavaths family endures. Out of the blue, his father surfaces in the States and drops a bombshell on the family he lost.
Betrayal caused a buzz at Hot Docs and was one of a handful of films to earn a repeat (sold out) screening. For starters, the film is beautifully shot by co-director Ellen Kuras (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Neil Young: Heart of Gold) and has intimate access to its subjects, filmed over the course of 23 years.
What elevates Betrayal to a different league of filmmaking is the double betrayal that hits Phrasavaths family: first political, then personal. The familys struggle to stay together lends this film its resonance and power. (Celluloid Dreams)