Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Monday, April 24, time 00.15 AM


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Dearest Sister

After having made Chanthaly (2013), the first Laotian film to have done the rounds on the festival circuit, Mattie Do has made her return to directing with Dearest Sister, another thriller infused with the supernatural, and which is a surprising co-production between Laos, France and Estonia.

The film revolves around Nok, a girl who moves from the village she was born in to Vientiane, to look after a cousin, Ana, who she has never met before. Married to a foreigner, Jakob, Ana is losing her sight and needs to be constantly cared for. Jakob cannot fulfill this role, as he has to travel for his job, which is causing him a great deal of worry. But Nok soon realizes that something is wrong in the sumptuous villa of her cousin. The couple who work there as servant and gardener are hiding a dark secret. But, most of all, it becomes clear that losing her sight is not the only problem her cousin has. While Ana is losing the ability to see the world around her, she is acquiring that of seeing dead people…

As was the case with Chanthaly, Mattie Do is not content to merely serve up thrills and twists. Thanks to the complex screenplay by Christopher Larsen, the director manages to craft a complex female drama, shot through with the supernatural, which reflects on diverse meaningful issues. Because while the relationship between Nok and Ana is built and then destroyed around themes of trust and the betrayal of a bond which becomes sisterly, the socio-cultural commentary on contemporary Laos that Mattie Do constructs goes far deeper. What is clear from the start is the power of money and the class divides it creates. The contrasts between the interior and the exterior of the house, having a place at the dining table of the home owners or eating out, sitting on the floor, creates the cracks that Nok finds herself having to deal with. And then there are the outdoor spaces of the city, for the nouveau riche that Nok can only access with Ana – or when she wins the lottery, thanks to the numbers that the dead people Ana sees have communicated to her (yes, this is a film that those who adore the Neapolitan passion for dream interpretations should not miss, considering the incredible cultural parallelisms between the superstitious beliefs of the Italian city and Laos). Not to mention the white, European husband, a much-desired trophy to escape being branded by the poverty of the homeland. Even if, for Nok, the true knight in shining armour could be a man from Japan. There is a lot at play in Dearest Sister, in the dynamics of power that surface in terms of gender, class, race, between countryside and the city, between the real world and the spiritual one.

An ambitious work, held together by the packaging of extraordinary quality, which irons out the amateur creases of Chanthaly and explores, for example the options offered by impeccable photography and editing. Even in the directing of the actors (already remarkable in her debut), Mattie Do confirms she has taken a step forward: the play of tensions and subtle shades of reciprocal manipulation in the two leads is conducted with a delicate symphony of glances and body language. In this sense, Amphaiphun Phommapunya (Nok) gives an excellent performance, in passing from being a shy outsider to domineering the spaces she soon takes under her control. But her ascent and her thirst for “something more” will lead to an inevitable tragedy. I can say no more, even if the final, disturbing finale of Dearest Sister bears witness to the taste for risks that the courageous director is willing to take, an auteur that we will see a lot more from in the coming years.
Paolo Bertolin
Film director: 
Mattie Do
Running time: 




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