Satu: Year of the Rabbit Image

Satu: Year of the Rabbit

By Alan Ng | June 27, 2024

In Joshua Trigg’s adventure drama Satu: Year of the Rabbit, a young teen, Bo (Vanthiva Saysana), aspires to become a photojournalist and attend the University of Hanoi. Bo needs to submit a photo essay as part of her application. After an incident with her drunk father, Bo defiantly leaves home to find inspiration somewhere in the beautiful countryside of Laos.

After a day’s travel, Bo’s moped runs out of fuel in front of a Buddhist monastery. When she asks for help from the monk, Bo meets a young boy, Satu (Itthiphone Sonepho), who has been living at the monastery since he was left there by his mother as an infant. Feeling lost in life, Satu receives a letter from the monk that his mother left behind. The Monk believes it would be good for Satu to find his mother, and Bo offers to take him, hoping that this is the story she needs for her university application.

Many things about Satu, Year of the Rabbit stand out to me. First, this story could never have been told in America, and I love it. The idea that a monk would allow a 17-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy to embark on a journey across America is insane. But set in Laos, the story takes on a Mark Twain charm. Of course, they’re going to live as vagabonds and survive on the kindness of strangers.

When they’re forced to find food and shelter as teens, the need to be resourceful instantly turns these youngsters into street-smart adults. The performances of Vanthiva Saysana and Itthiphone Sonepho as Bo and Satu are incredible. They not only act their age in what the story requires them to do but there is also an undeniable maturity about them.

“Bo defiantly leaves home to find inspiration somewhere in the beautiful countryside of Laos.”

Satu: Year of the Rabbit hits on themes of friendship, loyalty, and self-discovery. At the same time, there are a few side quests. The heavy rains near the monastery have caused bombs from the war to resurface, making it impossible for local farmers to harvest. The other is the arrival of a North Korean man seeking asylum for an elderly woman. These side stories simply expand on themes of community, compassion, and destiny.

I don’t usually read the press notes for films I review, but I couldn’t resist. For director Joshua Trigg, this is about as indie and no-budget as it gets. Not only did he fund the entire project himself, but he shot it all on film. It also didn’t help that his camera broke, and he needed to “smuggle” a new one in fear of falling to scheduling defeat.

I’m impressed by how cohesive Satu: Year of the Rabbit is. Trigg beautifully captures the beauty and simplicity of Laos. The two lead actors are charming and natural in their roles, and it feels like they’re not acting at all. The blend of adventure and drama is also done beautifully. It brings to mind images of modern-day Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

For general audiences, Satu: Year of the Rabbit is worth the watch. You will have to get over your natural reluctance to low-budget, foreign-language films. Though it might look no-frills, it is abundant in charm.

Satu: Year of the Rabbit screened at the 2024 Raindance Film Festival.

For screening information, visit the Satu: Year of the Rabbit official website.

Satu: Year of the Rabbit (2024)

Directed and Written: Joshua Trigg

Starring: Itthiphone Sonepho, Vanthiva Saysana, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Satu: Year of the Rabbit Image

"…might look no-frills, it is abundant in charm."

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