Thursday, February 19, 2009

1,000-to-1 shot at Oscar for Laotian filmmaker

While wagering on the top-tier categories at the Academy Awards is nothing new, it never occurred to me that oddsmakers would take bets on every category and nuance of the awards. But people will bet on anything.

And for best documentary feature, Salon offers its picks, with the no-brainer favorite (2-1 odds) being Man on Wire.

Among the nominees is The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), which Salon gives a 1,000-1 chance of winning.

It's co-directed by Thavisouk Phrasavath, and even if he doesn't win, this Laotian-American filmmaker still joins a pretty exclusive fraternity of Southeast Asians to get an Oscar nomination. According to Bisean, the others so far are Dr. Haing S. Ngor, the late Cambodian actor who won for his supporting role in 1984's The Killing Fields, and French-Vietnamese director Anh Hung Tran, whose The Scent of the Green Papaya was nominated for best foreign language film in 1994.

Screened last year at the Bangkok International Film Festival (sadly, I didn't have time to see it), The Betrayal is co-directed by Thavisouk and cinematographer Ellen Kuras, and tells the story of Thavisouk's flight from Laos as a 12-year-old, swimming the Mekong to Thailand and eventually ending up in Brooklyn, where his mother and seven of his nine siblings joined him. It's an epic tale, taking in the Secret War in Laos, the disappearance of Thavisouk's father, who fought against the communist Pathet Lao, and the Phrasavath family's disillusionment at the ugly reality of urban America.


  1. You and Salon have your odds reversed. For example, you say The Betrayal's Oscar odds are 1000-1 (a thousand to one), but I think you mean 1-1000 (one in a thousand).

  2. Okay, admittedly, I've never understood the concept of odds -- perhaps if they'd been explained by my junior high math teacher in the context of wagering -- like in The Wire -- I'd have stayed awake in class, and I'd now being doing a roaring trade as a bookmaker.

    The Wikipedia article doesn't make things any clearer, but from what I understand from it, it seems that in everyday expression, the odds are stated in reverse so that they are the way you and I see them in Salon.


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