February 1, 2021 – A disturbing tale of modern day slavery, torture and murder takes place aboard a Thai fishing boat from the perspective of a 14-year-old Cambodian boy looking for a way to survive and escape degradation and bondage.
Chakra (played by Sarm Heng) is a 14-year-old Cambodian boy who lives a hard life of farm labor and poverty. His desire to escape this life is strong enough for him to risk going into debt to an illegal labor broker to get a job in a factory in another country.
He finds out too late that the contractor has sold him into slavery on a Thai fishing boat. His debt will not be paid off, and he will get no wages, just food and a place to sleep on the boat. He watches passively as those crewmen who cannot work are thrown overboard, and those who rebel against the captain of the boat are tortured and murdered.
The boat captain, Rom Ran (played by Thanawut Kasro) comes to admire Chakra, who reminds him of himself as a young boy. He tells Chakra that he endured even worse hardships. The captain begins to teach the boy how to run the fishing boat. But he is a murderer, and he could turn on Chakra at any time.
Anyone who opposes the captain in any way is either severely punished or murdered. The captain rules his ship by a reign of terror. Chakra watches everything carefully, considering his options, which are few. He sees one man jump overboard, trying to make it to shore, only to be caught and, weighted down by chains, sent to the bottom of the ocean.
Chakra becomes so brutalized by life on the boat, that he turns into a murderer himself. Admitting his crime to the captain, Rom Ran tells him, “You owe me a life.” The captain tells Chakra that he can never be free because of what he has done.
Chakra cannot accept this fate, however, and there is a final twist to this story on the fishing boat from hell. This Australian film, written and directed by Rodd Rathjen, is captivating despite its subject matter. The film's languages are Thai and Khmer, with English subtitles. The acting is very convincing.
The film is stunningly photographed by cinematographer Michael Latham (“The Assistant”). It captures the vastness and beauty of the oceanscapes, showing how isolated Chakra's boat is from the rest of the world.
At the end of the film, intertitles indicated that events in this film are based on fact, and that an estimated 200,000 human trafficking victims work on fishing boats in Southeast Asia, providing a large portion of the world's fish products. This film rates a B+.
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