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Khmer Rouge survivor makes it to the Big Screen

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Anne Renzenbrink

Actress Kauv Sotheary at Cineplex.

The movie, Lost Loves, which opens at Cineplex tonight, tells the life story of Khmer Rouge survivor Nun Sila and gives young Cambodian’s an authentic, educational insight into their parent’s youth.

Nun Sila, 68, lost seven of nine of her family members during the Khmer Rouge regime. The movie begins with her life in a big house in Phnom Penh. It later illustrates her life in the Khmer Rouge camp where she was penned up with her children, desperate to keep her family alive despite seeing one relative after another killed or starved to death.

Her father, brother, nephew and children were all killed.

But the movie isn’t intended to generate biterness, hatred or revenge.

“This movie does not teach us to hate the people who did these things.  But rather it reminds us of this period which happened to Cambodian people and which hurt them,” lead actress and scriptwriter Kauv Sotheary said.

Kauv Sotheary, 44, a Royal University of Fine Arts drama professor, is in real-life the daughter of Nun Sila whom she plays in the movie. She survived the genocide as a child.

Lost Loves began filming in 2007, though the production proved to be difficult. Kauv Sotheary and her husband who directed the film, Chhay Bora, invested their own money into the production. They encountered many financial stumbling blocks.

“It is a risk to invest in the kind of films that talk about Khmer Rouge strategies because we don’t expect many people will watch it,” Chhay Bora said.

An incomplete version of the film was screened at the 2010 Film Festival in Phnom Penh. After spending an extra six months to compose original music and make final edits, the production crew finally finished Lost Loves.

For Chhay Bora and his team, the movie entails an educational aspect.

“We hope the audience comes not only for entertainment but to learn about Cambodia’s history,” he said.

Kauv Sotheary said; “The young Cambodian generation is not into reading. They don’t like spending their time on reading the newspaper or history books. We can explain what happened through the movie, through visual communication. This way, it is much easier for them to grow in understanding.”

Cambodian history professors attended a private pre-screening last week, and Chhay Bora hopes to develop a strategy with the professors to screen the film for younger Cambodians at schools and universities.

Moeng Samnang from Pannasatra University of Cambodia said history classes should show the movie to leave a lasting impression on the youth.

Cineplex marketing executive Socheata Chea said, “Most young Cambodians do not really know about this. They know it in theory but they don’t feel how sad it is. They don’t understand what their parents went through.

“And most old people don’t talk about the past. The movie will reveal what happened and what some parents won’t tell their children.”

Film commissioner at the Cambodian Film Commission, Sophea Kim said, “I have watched a lot of movies about the Khmer Rouge but they were only documentaries. This is a fiction film based on a true story - so I get to see the story and feel the characters.

“My heart was beating hard and fast when I watched it.”

Though the movie is expected to be screened throughout Cambodia, there is one Cambodian who has decided not to watch it, Nun Sila.

“She did not want to produce the film at all, she is still suffering from that time. She has not agreed to watch this movie,” Kauv Sotherary said.

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