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July 25, 2016

River

river poster.jpg

Jamie M. Dagg- 2015
Well Go USA Entertainment BD Region A

Full disclosure: I have previously contributed a couple of film reviews for producer Todd Brown's online publication, "Twitch", and have contributed money to producer Mattie Do's production of her film, Dearest Sister.

Jamie Dagg's modest debut feature is about an American doctor on the run in Laos. The basic set-up is of a man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this case, John Lake, taking a break from surgery at a country hospital, goes to a remote village in southern Laos. He intervenes when discovering a young Lao woman raped by an Australian tourist. Accused of being the rapist, as well as murdering the Australian, the son of a senator, Lake finds his way first to his hospital, finally escaping to Thailand.

For myself, as a Buddhist, I interpret the film as suggesting the even with free will, one can not escape one's karma. What Dagg brings up in the course of his story is an examination of responsibility to one's self and to others. It is hinted that Lake may see himself as a savior when he attempts to revive an accident victim whom the head doctor declares dead. Dagg also touches on the unconscious cultural imperialism of westerners in so-called Third World countries. While the sense of "foreignness" is also expressed by not providing subtitles when Lao or Thai are spoken, Dagg does portray his Asian characters in a negative light.

The use of handheld cinematography works best in a scene with Lake, waking up to discover himself beaten and bleeding, rushes down to the path by a stream, looking for his lost wallet in a state of panic. What is seen of Laos, and the little bit of Thailand, eschews the exotic in favor of the mundane. The one marked exception is when Lake is picked up on the road to Vientiane by a couple of young men in a souped up car that might have been driven off the set of the original Mad Max. In spite of his famous name, Rossif Sutherland does not bring the baggage of stardom to distract from the story, allowing the viewer to make their own view where Dagg chooses to be ambiguous.

Posted by peter at July 25, 2016 06:00 AM