After the death of both of his parents, Oat, an 11-year-old boy, lives with his brother Ek, and Aunt in small home in Thailand. Looking up to his brother as an almost father-like figure, Oak and sees his brother's future come into question when Ek is forced to participate in Thailand's annual military draft lottery. Attempting to change his brother's fate by any means necessary, Oat ventures into the darker world of Thailand which his young-mind simply doesn't grasp, leading to consequences for both him and his brother. Josh Kim's How To Win At Checkers (Every Time) provides a rather cynical viewpoint of modern day Bangkok, examining the hardships and joys of growing up in Thailand through the young perspective of Oat. While coming of age stories are a dime a dozen, How to Win At Checkers separates itself from the pack due to its hard and honest portrayal of growing up in a place like Thailand. It's rare for a film to not demonize selfishness but that is exactly what makes How To Win At Checkers so interesting, being a film that champions the notion that one must do what is necessary to survive in the no-holds barred world of Thailand. This is a film that argues that doing the right thing isn't a necessity but a hindrance in a world where everyone does what is necessary to get ahead, painting a portrait of modern Thailand that has been consumed by capitalist principles, breeding greed, which has led to widespread corruption. Class has become to major driver of success in Thailand, with How to Win At Checkers showing the vast differences in opportunities and restriction in Thailand based off of economic status. If rich enough, you can simply pay off the public officials before the draft lottery, guaranteeing a future for oneself outside of the military. How to Win At Checkers (Every Time) is a film that is specific to Thailand but also speaks to this more universal truth about economic class and opportunity. Told through the eyes of young Oak, How to Win At Checkers (Every Time) is a charming film with a unique voice, which manages to be poignant yet playful, being told completely from this young boy's perspective. The film does a great job at keeping the viewer completely in young Oak's perspective, subtlety capturing a boy who is being protected by his other brother and Aunt, from the harsher aspects of Bangkok. Through his brother's plight, Oat becomes a character who is disillusioned by the world around him, coming of age and realizing that very little is fair in contemporary Thailand.
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