In this humbly magnificent tale of the ultimate triumph of good over evil, 12-year-old Tam goes from wretchedness to hopefulness as he begins to understand the ancient wisdom of his people.
Tam’s family is forced to relocate from the mountainous forests of Laos to an area outside the Mekong Delta, the first of several events he must adjust to and eventually overcome. The displaced family receives a terrible history lesson when Tam’s father explodes a stray land mine while clearing his field and dies. To help support his family, Tam takes a job in the city at a cruel “farm” where bile is extracted from live, rare moon bears. The bears’ living situation is appalling, but Tam is powerless to change anything.
General Chan, the powerful man in charge of the relocation project, often visits the moon bear farm, seeking the bile to cure his daughter, Savanh. Tam and Savanh become friends, and he tells her the truth about the farm. Eventually Tam makes a bold move to forever change the life of one small bear. Savanh supports Tam’s decision, leading to a dramatic confrontation.
Cultural references lend much grace to this tale, in which the pure of heart ultimately win.