Tiara Delgado: filmed four inspiring Cambodians.
"I'm still angry. I don't forget but I forgive. If I don't forgive, then more
[violence] will happen. My children cannot learn and my country cannot develop."
These words, spoken by Sangha, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, sum up the message
of a documentary launched on February 21 at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom
Fragile Hopes From the Killing Fields is the debut film by Tiara Delgado, a 27-year
old graduate of New York University's film school. Using the personal stories of
four Cambodians, the 30-minute film looks at the important role of educating the
younger generation about the atrocities committed in 1975-9 and the determination
of people to transcend the past and carry Cambodia to a brighter future.
The response to the film has overwhelmed Delgado. Praise flowed in from the audience
after the screening, with one man saying he had spent four years in a German concentration
camp and could relate to the human toll of genocidal regimes. The five copies the
filmmaker brought along to the launch were snapped up and over 60 teachers have requested
Khmer and English-language versions of the documentary to show their students.
Delgado has been returning annually to Cambodia over the past five years to work
on the film, spending about $15,000 of her own money to finance the project. The
original idea was for a montage of survivors' stories, but the two themes of educating
young people and rebuilding the country emerged from interviews.
"It seemed like there was another story other than just surviving the genocide,"
said Tiara Delgado on February 23.
"I think there's a fine line between seeing someone as a victim and the people
that are just so resilient and so amazing and find it within themselves to step out
of that [past] and actually take action to reverse tragedy," she said.
The film focuses on four inspiring Cambodians. Sangha was orphaned during the radical
Maoist reign and now works with former Khmer Rouge soldiers to locate and destroy
landmines for the Cambodian Mine Action Group. As an infant, Sophal fled with his
mother to Vietnam and spent seven years in France before finally settling in America.
He is now back in Cambodia writing his PhD on development issues. Vann Nath, a painter,
is well known as one of only seven people to survive the S-21 torture center, as
is Sayana, who translated the diaries of Anne Frank into Khmer.
The film's launch pre-empted a "Spirit of Cambodia" tour that will begin
in the United States in April, traveling to Cambodian-Americans communities across
the country with the aim of educating young people about the past. The tour will
involve Delgado's film, a book by Carol Wagner called Soul Survivors: stories of
women and children in Cambodia and the rap music of Cambodian-American Prach Ly.