Buoyancy – Film Review

More than 24.9 million people are working in forced labour. 1 in 4 of those is a child or teenager. Buoyancy takes a brutal look at the life of a child slave labourer on a fishing trawler of the coasts of Southeast Asia.

The film follows the journey of 14-year-old Chakra, a poor Cambodian boy who spends his days working for his father in the rice paddies, but is unhappy with this arrangement. When he hears the promises of easy riches for hard workers in Thailand, he decides to leave his home for a factory job in Bangkok. But when he can’t come up with the money to pay his traffickers he finds himself sent to a fishing trawler where he must ‘work off his debt’ under the thumb of a violent and murdering slave driver.

The story of Chakra is a brutal and violent journey through a world of slavery, nothing a 14-year-old boy should ever have to endure. The film really captures the horror, but I’m sure doesn’t even come close to the reality of a life in slavery. But Buoyancy is a film about a boy who overcomes and escapes this world, which is likely a rare occurrence in the true world.

Sarm Heng is the standout performance of this film. Sarm conveyed so many emotions throughout the film, with perfect natural delivery, all at the age of 14. You would have thought he’d been acting for years from this performance. Thanawut Kasro’s portrayal of the menacing, heavy handed and murderous trawler captain was truly captivating and fear inducing. He showed such brutality, but also showed a softer side towards Chakra as he could see a piece of himself in the young boy. The pair really worked well together on-screen.

A large percentage of the film takes place on the trawler, at sea. I later found that the cast and crew actually spent 3 weeks filming on the water in Cambodia, and it really comes across on screen. The whole journey feels so authentic and truly captured the natural beauty of the world’s oceans, which makes it hard to picture it as the setting for so much suffering.

Director Rodd Rathjen’s aim for this film was to shock people. And he sure delivered. I was truly shocked by the film and its inspiration. I was sent on a deep dive into the world of slavery that I may have never known about if not for Buoyancy. The true shock however, was the statistics at the end of the film before the credits rolled, regarding slavery in the Southeast Asian fishing industry. Buoyancy is a truly eye-opening, faultless film that I believe everyone needs to see.

Buoyancy will be in cinemas from September 26.

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