Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A cage fight between science and superstition



A cage fight between science and superstition

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A screen shot from Mind Cage, by director Amit Dubey, which is premiering at the film festival. Photo supplied

A cage fight between science and superstition

Modern medicine and traditional techniques face off this week in Mind Cage, a film by Indian director Amit Dubey that was shot entirely in Cambodia, which is premiering this week at the Cambodian International Film Festival.

Dubey’s psychological thriller tells the story of a psychiatrist in Phnom Penh who defies traditional medical methods employed by Kru Khmer (traditional healers), which involves the use of harsh treatments to cure mentally ill patients. His disrespect for the traditional practices outrages one such healer. Meanwhile, his attempt to challenge the superstition also affects his family life due to his wife’s belief in Kru Khmer techniques.

Mind Cage is the first feature film from Dubey, who has lived in Cambodia for six years. It was co-written by Michael Hodgson, who also contributed to writing on the recent action comedy Jailbreak, with the undisclosed budget funded entirely by Dubey and his friends and relatives.

Dubey’s inspiration for the film comes from his curiosity about the traditional Cambodian ways of treating mental illness, which are very similar to those in his native India.

“In India, [mentally] ill people also turn to magic and rituals as the way of healing. The only difference is that in India, there is no magician to cast the love spell or make the love potions like in Cambodia,” he says.

Although Dubey and his crew spent only 20 days on filming, which was mostly done in Phnom Penh, Kien Svay and Areyksat, it took him a whole year to research the topic.

“For an entire year, I read a lot of documents, and met and talked with Kru Khmer, doctors, psychiatrists, monks and Buddhists to find out more about the traditional medical methods and the people’s belief in the superstition,” Dubey says.

While not explicitly featuring the supernatural in the film, Dubey says that he doesn’t aim to prove that “the dark side” exists, but to show the significance of superstition in a people’s mindset.

“The psychiatrist represents the small proportion of Cambodian people who do not believe in superstition, but he lives among those who do, and of course it will be tough for him to convince the others to change their belief,” he says.

In Cambodia, people often trust medicine from traditional healers more than pharmaceuticals because they consider it to be more natural. Similarly, fortunetellers and spirit mediums, whose techniques date back hundreds of years, are cheaper than modern medicine.

For Sveng Socheata, who plays the psychiatrist’s wife in Mind Cage, the film has a certain autobiographical element. She says that her own life experience is a testament to the powers of traditional medicine.

“For four years, I suffered from a severe brain tumour. I spent almost every penny I had on modern treatment, but it was not cured,” says the veteran actress, who also starred in Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father.

When she ran out of hope in 2014, Socheata met a Kru Khmer who “cured” her brain tumour with his herbal medicine and ritual, and he is now her soon-to-be husband.

“I think science and superstition complement one another. Just because you do not believe in something, I suggest you not insult it,” she says.

Mind Cage will be shown at Major Cineplex (March 5 at 6:30pm), Legend TK Avenue (March 6 at 4:30pm) and Legend Steung Meanchey (March 8 at 5:10pm). For future releases, please check the film’s facebook page.

MOST VIEWED

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Police arrest Canadian with 167kg of drugs

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on November 15 placed a Canadian national in pre-trial detention in connection with smuggling and possessing 167kg of illegal drugs. Deputy National Police chief in charge of anti-drug enforcement Mak Chito told The Post on November 15 that the man was arrested

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”