Mekong 2030 (2020) consists of five shorts where various filmmakers depict the future of the Mekong River. Through these several separate views, the film paints an image of how nature sustains the lives of thousands of people.
The river Mekong provides a livelihood for an estimated number of 60 million people. Spanning across six countries – China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam – the vast area surrounding the Mekong has suffered from mass pollution and environmental disintegration. In Mekong 2030 (2020), five filmmakers envision the future of the river. The shorts vary in their portrayal of the problem.
Kulikar Sotho’s short opens the collection. A villager finds an old relic in the forest. He’s not alone – a warden spots him and claims the reward should be split. The two men – along with the villager’s wife – embark on a journey down the Mekong River. Kulikar Sotho effortlessly grabs attention with a simple premise that shows Mekong’s vastness, as well as the key role it plays in transportation in Cambodia. This segment also looks at greediness and points to the way Mekong’s pollution destroys both the natural ambiance and the wellbeing of the locals.
Laotian filmmaker Anysay Keola follows up with a more futuristic angle. He draws a nihilistic vision of an epidemic that’s on the verge of spreading out. In the center of this short film, we find a student who comes home to the riverside and finds himself in the middle of a family feud. Though this short is probably the farthest from covering the environmental issues, Anysay Keola sparks excitement by bringing sci-fi elements to the futuristic vision of Mekong (similarly to another Laotian filmmaker Mattie Do and her The Long Walk).
The next three segments, directed by Thai filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong, Sai Naw Kham from Myanmar and Pham Ngoc Lan from Vietnam, draw an image of the Mekong river as a source of an artistic inspiration, a religious destination and a place storing memories.
I did feel more invested in stories directed by Kulikar Sotho and Anysay Keola. The three other segments completed the image quite well but struggled in engaging on their own. Therefore, I feel that Mekong 2030 (2020) could have used a thread tying the shorts together. As a whole, the film reduces the gigantic size of the river to personal stories, and connects people and nature in various ways.
For what it’s worth, this is a fine experiment that binds visions from five various countries and cultures which all share the same resource. However, some viewers might see this loose mosaic a bit too all over the place.
Mekong 2030 (2020)
Directors: Kulikar Sotho, Anysay Keola, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Sai Naw Kham, Pham Ngoc Lan
Reverse Grade: 5/10
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