River of Exploding Durians

River of Exploding Durians ★★★½

River of Exploding Durians starts off as a story of love, about a boy who has a crush on a friend. Their friendship is very pure and sweet, until it is shattered. She doesn't want to be defined by the men in her life, and would rather live moment than moment than be consumed by the world. This whole section reminds me of A Brighter Summer Day, featuring a lonely youth and the girl he wants to control, whilst the larger world around them is in chaos. Though this is a much broader and more streamlined approach. However River of Exploding Durians has quite an unusual structure and drops that main plot entirely before the halfway point. A socio-political element in the background, to do with a rare earth plant built near the town, becomes then the main focus of the film. The film becomes one of activism. There are discussions about protests that have happened across Southeast Asia, re-enacted as class presentations. From there the film begins to ask whether protests should be violent, and that struggle defines the rest of the narrative.

A consistent element in the film is about being forgotten. Characters worry about their town being forgotten and left to be destroyed by corporate interests. There is an early scene with a discussion on Malaysian identity, implying the characters feel small in the world and powerless compared to other nations. The film itself is also centred on Chinese Malaysians, a significant minority ethnic group. River of Exploding Durians presents history as something filled with forgotten stories, and the characters clamour to ensure they will not be forgotten. River of Exploding Durians is not an extraordinary work, and I preferred its initial story which ended up not being the main focus, but it is very solid, with some nice cinematography and moving moments. It's slow and powerful and overall quite interesting.

2014 Ranked

Block or Report