The Rocket to launch in the US but China is a no-go

07 January, 2014 by Don Groves

North American distributor Kino Lorber is showing plenty of faith in Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket, which premieres in New York City on Friday in a roll-out which will encompass 24 cities through late February.

The Lao-set feature has been banned from cinemas in China but has been cleared to screen on Video-On-Demand platforms in that country.


Producer Sylvia Wilczynski of Red Lamp Films tells IF the Chinese censors regarded the film’s depiction of developers razing a village to make way for a hydro-electric dam in neighbouring Laos as a “sensitive issue.”

However the producer is delighted with Kino Lorber’s release plans, starting with New York’s IFC Centre and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Centre. She’s praying the vicious cold snap which has hit parts of the US including Gotham and hurt ticket sales, has abated by then.

The film is getting more playdates in North America than Australian films are usually able to secure, with the notable recent exception of The Sapphires.

Mordaunt has been doing interviews with the US media and the distributor is relying on that publicity plus word-of-mouth and the kudos from winning prizes at New York’s TriBeca Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival to draw audiences.

In another honour, The Rocket has been selected as one of eight films to travel around the world with Sundance Film Forward, an international touring program designed to enhance greater cultural understanding, collaboration and dialogue. The director will attend the screenings in Philadelphia in April and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in May. Other locations include Colombia, Indonesia and Taiwan.

Sold internationally by Tine Klint's LevelK,  the film is playing in 20 cinemas in Poland (“as a half-Polish person, that makes me very proud,” Sylvia says) and it will premiere theatrically in Thailand, New Zealand and the UK in the next couple of months.

Mordaunt and Wilczynski got development finance from Screen Australia in December for Pink Mist, a drama/action/romance set in Australia and Africa. Kim is going to Africa in February for research. Also on their slate are Flowers of the Dead, a drama set in Australia and Mexico, which Mordaunt is writing and will direct, and Zig Zag, a thriller scripted by Howard Jackson.

Separately, Sylvia is co-producing with Emerald Productions’ Lyn Norfor Undertow, a female-centric psychological thriller which will mark the feature directing and writing debut of Miranda Nation. It’s about a female journalist who suspects her husband is involved in a scandal, which threatens their marriage and her sanity.

The project will go out to casting soon. Sylvia says an established actress will play the lead and they are looking for an up-and-comer for the other key female character, a seventeen-year-old who is caught up in the scandal.

Nation’s film Perception won the prize for best live action short at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival Dendy Awards (where Sylvia was a judge) and it is nominated for an AACTA award. “She's a major talent on the rise,” says Sylvia. “Like Kim, she is a former actor. A lot of people including some directors are scared of actors. If you have been an actor you understand the process of guiding actors much more.”