Whom do you trust? Mattie Do’s Dearest Sister (2016) plays on our expectations of trust and seeks to upend them at every turn. Just as Ana may not be able to trust her failing vision that seems to bring with it visitations from ghosts, we may not be able to trust our sense that Nok, the poor distant relation sent to care for her, comes with pure motives.
And just like the furniture that gets moved around in the house, the film keeps us off balance to ensure we can never rely on sure footing. We as viewers are constantly challenged to question the lens through which we are watching the film. Are we trying to apply Western solutions to Eastern problems, to paraphrase Mattie Do? We have to question our own assumptions about social structure and entitlement, along with the roles we play in exchange for what we take or are given.
This is Mattie Do’s second feature film, and her third film is making the festival rounds now. It is exciting to be catching up with her work as Laos’ only female director and I hope this is just the beginning of a long and fruitful career. She and her cast and crew have accomplished something remarkable, and not just because Laos has a very small film output and practically no film infrastructure or industry. Dearest Sister stands on its own terms as a spooky genre picture, and a snapshot of a culture we rarely see on screen.
What you’ll find in this episode: more about Mattie Do’s background and the Lao film industry, why horror works across cultural boundaries, and whether we’re predisposed to be on Nok’s side.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Dearest Sister on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Parasite.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Bedevilled.
A selection of folklore from Laos.
The footage from Mattie Do’s first film, made available open source.