Filmmakers in attendance.
The past is not a foreign country. We live through our present bearing the impact of our histories, both personal and collective, in our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. Director Kavich Neang’s documentary feature debut captures beautifully this oft-elusive sentiment through a experimental love letter to Phnom Penh and his Cambodia.
As a member of the Anti-Archive film collective in Southeast Asia, Neang, along with his peers, Davy Chou, Steve Chen and Sungho Park, among others, sets out to present a more holistic historical record by privileging artistic and personal cinematic modes of storytelling that often blur the lines of reality and fiction. Through this approach, he renders the seemingly mundane into the fantastical. What does it mean to call a place, thing, or in this case, a building “historical?” The typical delineation conjures up visions of cataclysmic events as markers of historical importance. Instead, Neang peers under the foundation, to look at what is unseen, and asks us to entertain another view, one sustained through affect and our senses.
Neang’s site-specific filmic record of the last days of the White Building, a housing tenement and artist colony from before the days of the Khmer Rouge, one of those cataclysmic events, strikes a personal chord since he himself grew up in this tight-knit community. Recently purchased by a Japanese corporation and ordered to vacate the premises before its demolition, Neang explores this potential erasure of a seminal page of the cultural record. Among his cine-interventions, he interviews his own parents and other elder residents who lived through the darkest days of Pol Pot. Though these accounts remain expectedly bleak to some degree, there is also tremendous light and joy within many of these recollections. Through naturalistic light, sounds, and tableaux vivant long takes, these historical witnesses speak volumes without actually speaking words. Lives go on in a time of war and in our current peacetime, we can certainly overcome. —Lindy Leong
Director, Director of Photography: Kavich Neang
Producer: Davy Chou, Daniel Mattes
Co-Producer: Marine Arrighi De Casanova
Associate Producer: Steve Chen, Park Sungho
Editor: Félix Rehm
Sound Designer, Music Composer: Vincent Villa
Production Manager: Danech San
Colorist: Nuttacha Khajornkaitsakul
A young woman recounts stories of her past experiences, finding enchantment in the flows of the river and the trees on the mountains nearby.