Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Betrayal

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 3:20 PM

“The time will come when the universe will break,

It will break piece by piece,

Country by country,

Religion by religion,

Husband and wife will break into two,

The children will escape into the wind,

They will scatter to hide on islands,

Like frightened deer hunted by evil man,

The world that we know now will change beyond recognition”

—From Nerakhoon


The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) is a movie directed by Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath. It's about the life of a Laotian military family that had gone through hell trying to find themselves. Their lives were lost both in their war-torn country and in the United States where they thought they would be rescued.

Lost to their neighbors and their own family members, they had been living on false hopes every second but finally realize that nothing good seemed to come their way after their father—the hero—walked out on them. From then on, the mother would watch her entire family slip into darkness.

A special screening of The Betrayal is slated for 7 p.m. Thursday evening at Flicks, to benefit the International Rescue Committee. Tickets are $10.

In the movie, Thavisouk, or “Thavi,” who had a dream of growing up like his father, a Laotian soldier, was put through hell at a young age. After his father, who was working for the American army during the war, was arrested, Thavi would watch his life proceed, as predicted by his grandmother, first as a runaway. At the age of 13 he had already been interrogated and threatened by the new government in Laos and his family had become enemies of the state for the fact that his father worked for the Americans.

His father, who always wanted to be a top ranked military man, said, “working for the American means more money.” Before Thavi runs away, he utters that he would come to understand war by seeing wounded soldiers on his way to school and, in his words, he would explain the feelings and his understanding of why this happened to his family and him.

Thavi’s mother, who got married at the age of 16 through an arranged marriage, believed the ancestors that a powerful eagle would come and win the war for them. She watched movies of a peaceful Laos to come and remained hopeful. “The life of a soldier wife is full of struggle, wherever my husband went I followed, we had 10 children together, I never dreamed that my life would be what it is now” she said.

Through the hardship of seeing her husband arrested for working with the Americans, her family hated by both her neighbor and the new government, and seeing her 13-year-old son forced to leave Laos in fear to seek refuge in Bangkok, she wished to die in any way, beside rocket fire. The mother finally managed to reunite with her son after escaping in a boat, which was too small to carry her extended family.

They applied for political asylum in America, saying, "we would have applied for political asylum in any country like Canada, Australia, but mother said because our father work for the American, we need to apply in America."

Resettled to America, a place they hoped would be like heaven, turned out to be frightening at first impression. She walked the dreadful hallway to their new room, in an apartment too small to accommodate her family, living among her enemies, the people she ran from. And despite getting welfare, her family would still struggle to eat because they were too many of them.

However, the thing that makes this movie so sad is the crime in the streets of New York and how it stimulated refugee children to become members of gangs.

After 13 years of refugee, Thavi received a call from a unanimous person who, after asking him to guess who he was, revealed he was his father. They were over the moon to be reunited with him, but then he told them he was married and had two kids with another woman. He abandoned his family and 10 children for this new life. All of Thavi's family was devastated and the mother would watch her own children dishonor her, joining gangs in the streets of New York. She wished she never came to America to see these things happening to her.

This is a movie that will take your breath away, seeing how someone's life dances around false hope for many years and finally life unfolds itself into disappointment.

The resettlement system is improved nowadays, and refugees that go through hell are rarely placed in violent neighborhoods like in Thavi's family's case. But still, this movie speaks of how fast children lose themselves and become a burden for their parents after struggling to raise them through war and starvation in their home countries. Children forget all they went through to get to this land, all the many times they had to sleep in the street like in Thavi's case—he was a street kid at the age of 13.

Great movie and I hope you take your time to go and watch it on Thursday.

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