By Leni De Castro
Directed by Anysay Keola
At the Horizon is an attempt to break the tempered glass surface of socio-political circumstances in Laos. The glass encasement is the censorship board, which protects these issues from spilling over to the lap of the scrutinizing public. It is by far newbie Anysay Keola’s tallest feat in writing and directing. Keeping an eye that transcends the customary boundaries of usual romance and drama genres, he’s created this socially significant crime drama that speaks with emphasis about prevailing socio-economic and political issues.
The film starts and ends with its two main characters: Sin, a rich young man who always finds himself in trouble; and Lud, a responsible motorcycle mechanic and family man. The two opposite sides of the social spectrum set up the dynamic that Anysay wants to magnify and for which Sin and Lud represent each flank. Sin is a restless individual who lives in luxury yet is unable to accept responsibility for his actions, expecting his parents to clean up whatever mess he makes. Lud is mute yet, despite his incapacity, is able to make a living as a mechanic living simple dreams for his family. They are set on a collision course that will break the invisible barrier that divides their worlds: With death and vengeance in his mind, Lud takes Sin prisoner and, throughout the course of the film, it becomes clear via different flashbacks why Lud resorted to abduction.
As the characters that Anysay has positioned front and center against the backdrop of social injustice and vengeance, Sin and Lud sit in opposite climes when it comes to their respective statuses. Both men are capable of misdeeds when exposed to certain circumstances, but only one has the capacity to get away with the crime. The story is well written and simple enough for the audience to follow. But the fact that it deals with issues that are considered off limits to media and entertainment in Laos makes it special. The great divide that separates the rich from the poor in terms of law and justice is depicted with clarity. Here is the universal theme for films of underdeveloped countries, where the power players and their families enjoy the luxury of being above the law.
Anysay Keola shows much promise when it comes to weaving together stories and crafting quality films on a limited budget. He is able to show heart because, by the film’s conclusion, remorse and human compassion have resurfaced on the river of human struggle alongside the current socio-economic and political muck that characterizes Laotian life. The cast do well and should be commended for stellar performances, most notably the rendering of Lud by Khamou Phanludeth. Overall, this is a film that Laotians should be proud of, given that the film industry in the country is still in its budding stages. Also it should be mentioned that this is Laos’ first venture into the genre of crime drama.
Watch At the Horizon on FilmDoo.com.