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Running Time:
1 hour, 36 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
An unusually moving documentary that indicts the U.S. for betraying the Laotian people; as seen through the travails of one family.

The Betrayal

This moving documentary was filmed over 23 years by veteran cinematographer Ellen Kuras who has woven together personal and historical archive footage to tell the story of Thavi and his family of Laotian exiles in America. The film opens with beautiful shots of the Laos countryside and then cuts to Thavi interviewing his elderly mother who tells how she married at 16 and bore her soldier husband ten children. But when the Vietnam war  spread into Laos and her husband joined the American side, she was left to bring up her family alone.

When the Americans pulled out of the country without warning, Thaviís father was taken away for ďre-educationĒ and the family found themselves shunned by their neighbors, and regarded as enemies. Thaviís mother tells how afraid she was during the nights when she would hear the army vehicles entering their village, knowing they might be the next to be taken away. The family realized they couldnít stay in Laos, and they decided that Thavi, the eldest boy, should leave first. So as a young teenager he swam across the Mekong to Thailand, where he was later reunitred with the rest of his family. But, forced to leave in a hurry, they had to leave two sisters behind. Thaviís mother chose to go to America because she thought the Americans had been good to her husband. Arriving in Brooklyn, she found prejudice, gang violence, poor housing, and increasing alienation by her children.

 Ellen Kuras first met Thavi four years later, in 1985, when she was looking for someone who could teach her Laotian. The two became friends, and after hearing his personal history, she knew she wanted to tell his story. She has been filming his story ever since. Despite some sequences that are too long, this beautifully shot and visually poetic film is an unforgettable journey, and listening to Thavi tell the story of his family, you learn much more than just a history lesson about Laos and Vietnam. It is a story is about love, family, culture, betrayal, struggle, and, ultimately, survival and triumph


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