Fantastic Fest 2016 Review: DEAREST SISTER

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Even with the limitations of budget, and that fact that she makes her movies in a Communist state, director Mattie Do remains undaunted and enthusiastic about her films, and wishes to use the medium to shed light on the real problems of her nation.  At the same time, she enjoys doing it within the genre of horror. Known as Laos’ only horror filmmaker, Mattie Do directs this supernatural thriller that addresses the real Laotian issues of social stratification and gender oppression.

Recently blinded, Laotian native Ana (Vilouna Phetmany) needs an assistant, as her German husband Jakob (Tambet Tuisky) spends most of his days working.   Jakob pleads Ana’s family for help and they send Ana’s cousin Nok (Amphaiphun Phommapunya) back with him.  The reunion between the estranged cousins has a rocky beginning, but with the time, the two form a close bond.  Ana soon reveals that with her blindness comes a dark and frightening new ability.  Her disability has awakened a brand new sense that allows her to receive messages from the dead.  Nok soon realizes that Ana’s gift may also be a source of wealth that would allow her and her family to escape poverty.

Written by Christopher Larsen, Dearest Sister is a dark, creepy and atmospheric movie that offers much insight into the lives of oppressed people in Laos and the desperation to escape poverty by any means necessary.  Do’s movie mixes elements typical of ghost stories and supernatural thrillers with a twist very near and dear to her.  Do does a great job mixing horror, fantasy, and the harsh realities of life in Laos.  The entire cast performs superbly and Do shows that she is a talented and skillful director.  Hollywood should take note of this gifted filmmaker because she is already making waves in international genre cinema.

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