Underreported: The Legacy of the War in Laos via Nerakhoon

Nerakhoon (The Betrayal) (2008) is a documentary film about Laos and a Laotian family living in the US; it is directed by Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath. Nerakhoon is a Lao word for betray.

Thavisouk’s name sounds so familiar to me, [edited] it is confirmed by my sister that he is the same person that I knew in Brooklyn, NY as I had suspected but we all knew him as Souk; I lived there for over 6 years back in the 80s. There were very few Laotian families living in Brooklyn during that time, and he came to the US after us. We were sponsored by the same Chinese Christian Church (I believed) that ripped us off, and we used to live at the same apartment building, him one door down from us.

I think this film is something that we all can relate to, especially for me since it takes place in my old neighborhood, I’m curious to see what angle the film will portray because I knew how bad it was for me growing up in Brooklyn. This might be a painful journey into the past for many of us, and definitely something worth checking out.

Underreported: The Legacy of the War in Laos

nerakhoon.jpgDuring the Vietnam War, the CIA used Laos to launch secret operations, which in turn led to mass bombings and destruction there. And after the 1975 Communist takeover, hundreds of thousands of Laotians who had aided the Americans had to flee the country for fear of retribution. On today’s first Underreported, we find out what has happened to those who left. Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath are director and co-director of the documentary film “Nerakhoon,” about Thavisouk’s long and difficult journey from war-torn Laos to Brooklyn. Source

The film is already set to show on PBS in the US 2008/2009, check your local listing.

From BAM, Brooklyn Academy of Music web site:

Nerakhoun, a documentary work-in-progress, explores artist, poet, and filmmaker Thavisouk Phrasavath’s 20-year journey from his life in war-torn Laos to an urban America that has tested both his past beliefs and future hopes.

During the Vietnam War, the CIA used Laos to launch secret operations, leading to mass bombings and destruction in the country. When the US abandoned Laos and the Royal Army it had backed—including Thavi’s father, a respected officer— Thavi’s life descended into turmoil. Since being reunited with his family in Brooklyn, he and his mother have had to face the meaning of betrayal—between countries, between husband and wife, and between father and son—as they struggle to survive in exile.

Followed by: A Filmmaker’s Journey
First funded by the Sundance Documentary Fund in 1997, Nerakhoun returned to the Documentary Film Composer’s Lab in 2006 for an intensive immersion into the film’s themes and its score. Following this screening, filmmakers Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath will share their phenomenal journey and the life-changing process they undertook with this extraordinary film, now almost completed and 20 years in the making.

The Sundance Documentary Program offers project funding and year-round support for contemporary-issue documentary filmmakers globally. Source.


  1. Hi Ryan, did you know that I lived next door to him when I first came to the US, we lived in Brooklyn NY for over 6 years, I believed that he is the same person, a bit older than me but I knew him by the name of Souk, and one of my sisters confirmed that it’s him.

    It would be interesting for me to see this documentary film because some of the location is from my old neighborhood. After we left there, many young Laotians in that area, mostly guys joined gangs and some got arrested. I believed it was in the late 80s when many parents decided to move and there were 2 or more tour buses that came to pick them up, one went to Stockton, CA and the others went to Rochester NY I believed (if I remembered correctly, I do have to check my facts to make sure.)

    I also need to check for the time that it will be aired. The film is already set to show on PBS in the US, check for your local listing.

  2. Amazing how someone (a neighbor) you once knew can one day become a star you see on the screen tomorrow.

  3. Hey Bob, it amazed my sisters that I still recognize him all these years because I don’t know him personally, but I think the Lao community was so small in Brooklyn that you know the person’s name and face, and referring to them as the son or daughter of so and so.

    The apartment building that we used to live is situated on one big block but with several entrances, and there were immigrations from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. When I told my dad, he was impressed because many young male Laotians joined gangs (back in the 80s) with the Chinese, Vietnamese, or the Cambodian, and it’s a pleasant surprise to hear this, especially from someone that you have not heard from for over 20 years, his mom must be very proud of him.

    I think this is something that you would enjoy watching, and, it’s nice to hear because he might be an inspiration to those that are interested in filming.

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