THE BETRAYALFrom Laos to New York. The family story that Ellen Kuras reconstructs in her documentary spans more than a quarter of a century. In it, she tells the story of her co-director, Thavisouk Phrasavath, whose family is the subject of this film. Like thousands of his countrymen in the 1970s, Phrasavath’s father, a former officer serving in the Royal Laos Army, is recruited by the CIA and entrusted to carry out secret service missions for them on the Ho Chi Minh trail. When the USA withdraws from Laos in 1975 and the Revolutionary People’s Party Pathet Lao comes to power he is declared an enemy of the state and sent to a labour camp. After repeated arrests his son decides to flee and swims through the Mekong to Thailand. He is overjoyed to be reunited with his mother and two siblings two years later. Obliged to accept that their father is probably dead, the family emigrates to the USA in 1981. But America proves to be anything but an American dream: in Brooklyn the Phrasavaths are housed in a single room in a crowded tenement building next door to a crack house. To them, the things that occur on the streets of New York are tantamount to another war
Combining interviews with family members in America and Laos and material filmed over the past 23 years, the film tells the story of the Phrasavaths’ struggle for survival in their new home. A highly personal film revealing the human tragedies that lie behind the euphemistic term “collateral damage”.