Review: The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)

August 22, 2010

Directed by Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath 

This epic Oscar-nominated documentary, filmed over the course of 23 years, chronicles a family’s post-Vietnam War escape from Laos and its subsequent resettlement in Brooklyn, NY. The film follows Thavisouk Pravasath, who assumes familial responsibilities after his father (a Royal Lao soldier who helps the CIA but is forgotten when the Americans leave Southeast Asia) is sent to a re-education camp and presumed dead. Initially, as the film gives a historical account of Laos during and after the war, it exhibits a somewhat overwrought and ethereal style, heavy on landscapes and dramatic narration. But the film really ignites when the directors ditch their gauzy lens and shift to visceral images of 1980s Brooklyn — concrete, tenements and big hair — and we finally get to know the Pravasath family and see how their harrowing experience has shaped them. Special features include commentary and a Q-and-A with Pravasath and co-director Ellen Kuras — a seasoned cinematographer (4 Little Girls, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) — as well as archival and montage footage from Laos and deleted scenes.

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Sylvie Kim

contributing editor & blogger

Sylvie Kim is a contributing editor at Hyphen. She previously served as Hyphen's blog coeditor with erin Khue Ninh, film editor, and blog columnist.

She writes about gender, race, class and privilege in pop culture and media (fun fun fun!) at and at SF Weekly's The Exhibitionist blog. Her work has also appeared on Racialicious and Salon.