Australia has submitted The Rocket as its official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the Oscars.
The Rocket – trailer
A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home. After a calamity-filled journey through a land scarred by the legacy of war, to prove he’s not bad luck he builds a giant rocket to enter the most exciting and dangerous competition of the year: the Rocket Festival.
The recognition for the Australian film The Rocket keeps coming as the low-budget drama set in Laos has become Australia’s official selection for the best foreign-language Oscar next year.
After winning awards at two major international festivals then the audience prize at both the Sydney and Melbourne film festivals, the Lao-language film is considered the country’s best-ever chance for a first nomination in the category.
Written and directed by Kim Mordaunt, The Rocket centres on an apparently cursed 10-year-old boy trying to help his struggling family in the war-torn country’s mountainous north.
Ex-street kid Sitthiphon Disamoe (right) stars in The Rocket.
It was shot in Laos and Thailand with a cast largely from both countries, including charismatic former street kid Sitthiphon Disamoe in the lead role.
“It’s a long shot but hopefully the academy will see it as a contender,” said thrilled producer Sylvia Wilczynski, after Screen Australia announced the film’s selection. “Most of the best films that come out each year are foreign language films so it’s a pretty serious category to be represented in.”
Wilczynski, who is married to Mordaunt, said the acclaim for the film had far exceeded their expectations.
“When you’re making a film, you’re so caught up in just trying to tell the best story,” she said. “You always want it to each a wide audience but we never thought it would win this many awards.
“To be honest, we thought it would be very unlikely to, given the politics around people making a film from a country that’s not their own. So it’s just been [a series of] constant surprises.”
The Rocket was a tough film to make given it was shot in a foreign language and largely in a country without a production industry. Mordaunt said they were warned many times against making it.
“We had lots of people say to us, ‘Don’t do it. You’re going to end up with a film that no one wants to see and you’re not going to make a cent out of it,’ ” he said.
It took prizes totalling $US110,000 from the Berlin and New York’s Tribeca film festivals – the film won three prizes at each – to get Mordaunt and Wilczynski out of personal debt.
Australia has only had half a dozen previous selections for the foreign-language Oscar, including Cate Shortland’s Lore (in German), Rolf de Heer’s Ten Canoes (in Yolngu Matha, Gunwinggu and English), Tony Ayres’ The Home Song Stories (in Cantonese, English and Mandarin) and Warwick Thornton’s Samson & Delilah (in Warlpiri and English).
To be eligible, a film must predominantly have non-English dialogue. Countries are only able to select one film each year for consideration in the category.
In the past fortnight, The Rocket has taken $217,000 on a small-scale release across 13 Australian cinemas.
It is expected to get a North American cinema release in November after Kino Lorber, a company that has had four foreign-language Oscar nominations in the past six years, picked it up for distribution. The film has also sold to the UK, the Middle East and parts of Europe so far.