Fourteen-year-old Chakra (Sarm Heng) is a lesser son in a family of Cambodian rice farmers. His older brother is allowed to pursue school studies, but Chakra is forced to work long hours for his father. He yearns for a better life, symbolized by the cars and other vehicles zooming away on the highway he can see from the fields. When he hears that it is possible to work in a factory where he will be able to earn a decent wage, he snaps at the opportunity and runs away from home. But the offer turns out to be a scam, and he finds himself sold into slavery on a Thai fishing trawler. The captain, Rom Ran (Thanawut Kasro), is a brutal and even murderous taskmaster.
Stone-faced Chakra gradually wins Rom Ran’s admiration, and the villain begins teaching the young boy how to become a successful villain himself. We wonder if Chakra will seek revenge or if he will go over to the dark side and begin exploiting kidnapped workers himself.
Writer-Director Rodd Rathjen, for his feature-film debut, did extensive research, interviewing survivors who were trafficked into the Thai fishing industry. In fact, Kasro, who plays the villain, worked on a fishing trawler from the ages of eleven to thirteen. Rathjen also used real ship workers to play the roles of the ship’s crew. The cruelty of the overseers can be difficult to watch. What’s worse is that the forced labor of Southeast Asian boys and young men continues to be a real-life human rights tragedy. If you use canned fish for your pet’s food, you might want to check the label to see if it comes from Thailand.