Author Archives: Sithen

About Sithen

Translation Partner, Film Producer/Critic, Social Activist, Avid Blogger, Caring Father, Agent of Change.

First They Killed My Father – A Girl’s Eyes to Revisit Cambodian Dark Times

I only heard about First They Killed My Father, from social media, to be produced in Cambodia back then. Little did I know the production affected those colleagues closest to me like Rithea. Until recently, I didn’t expect to be invited to the premiere of this true-event-based movie. Without boasting, I was even authorized to list down other guests I find appropriate for this screening! Despite all the “low-key” arrangements, all I could guess was it was going to be another Khmer Rouge movie. But I didn’t anticipate the different angle and intention of the director, Angelina Jolie, in great chemistry with its author, Ung Luang.



Strategic Production

Many of my friends and acquaintances kept asking me if they could pay to see it. But the first screenings only happened in Cambodia within this February. So if you want to see it at your “leisure”, it should be on Netflix, a worldwide subscription-based movie app. It is also the company that has invested in this novel-inspired work. The truth is, Cambodia is not yet open enough to this digital platform. So make the dots between Angie and this movie by yourself! Besides, while this project already benefited Cambodian film crew, I only hope the next one will see them on bigger credits!

Innocent Approach

The beginning of the story is quite predicable, as most Cambodian millenials learned about this dark regime from History. What was unknown is how all the scenes follow the eyes of an innocent girl, who was the author in her pre-teenage. No much dialog is involved. Only the action of adults who seem to dominate her own will. Maybe it goes to show how Cambodian children were deprived of better chances in that manipulating period.

Past Face-Off

By past face-off, I meant two consequences of this auto-genocide: one near and the other far. The near face-off is dramatically highlighted in a final scene, in which a former Khmer Rouge soldier was mob-attacked and punished. After this attack is spared, our protagonist is left to face him alone. What would you do if you were her? The far consequence is how Cambodian survivors learn to live their lives, despite or along with this historic trauma. Would they forgive, but never forget? Would younger generations learn to accept or ignore it?

After all, I’d say “First They Killed My Father” is daring in its approach for attempting to revisit Cambodian History from fresh eyes. I bet you’ll never look at our past the same way again, after understanding about the little Luang. And I may need to read the book to feel the differences and learn some missing parts?!

Rating: 08/10

My Angels of the Year 2016

Expecting my personal kind of year review? Sorry to disappoint you. But this year, I’d rather reflect on people with positive impact to my life, here called “angels”. If you don’t find your names in this post, no hard feeling! I may include you in my 2017 review!

My wife and daughter

Sounds classic, doesn’t it? Of course, it does. Yet, I have been myself amazed with every moment we’ve grown throughout this year. Sreyneath has become the shared centerpiece of our lives. Living with her mother, I believe she’s been in magic hands. Why are they my angels? For them, I’ve quit my “egocentric zone”. How? Read on…

Phanit and Sreyneath

My sisters

I know I’ve rarely exposed Yen and Len to my online and social circle. Yet, as the saying goes, behind a XYZ man are great women. Their greatness lies in their financial backup of the lifestyle I’ve “camouflaged”. Can you imagine two vegetable business ladies earn enough to afford a mid-class living of the entire family and beyond? For that effect, they have wittingly inherited our late mother, who has now gone on to become a heavenly angel, I believe.

My sisters


Believe it or not, I’ve known him as a total stranger when we attended an ECCC hearing back in 2008. A year later, we became affiliated with Kon Khmer Koun Khmer. Little did I expect him to return from his overseas studies to benefit this film collective. Thanks to his support, we’ve managed to secure a large grant for Chaktomuk Short Film Festival (CSFF) this year from Winrock.



Some people came into our lives for a short while and left us. But Oudom returned to me in an unimaginable circumstance. He has saved me/us in “Mother’s Blood” project and now “Pram Ang“. Despite our different lifestyles, what we have in common is our passion for social causes. I still appreciate his community outreach, regardless of benefits or risks he might take, with or without JCI.


B. Sila

If you have hung out with me for long enough, his name may sound familiar with you. It is one thing to look up to him as my business inspiration. It is another to work for/in his business, which is PuPrum Entertainment. Financial stability aside, this is the kind of business/job I’ve ever dreamed of: helping local productions maximize the profits and values of their movies. So the chance he gave me earns him a divine spot in my heart.


I’ve known since last year, through FilmCamp Trip to Areng. Some acquaintances may whisper the wish to help you out when needed. But so far, he has gone the extra mile and saved me from lots of technical and organizational tasks. He doesn’t care whether or not our common cause in CSFF offers him any incentive. Thus, when you run into someone like him, you gotta keep them! For how long? Time will tell.



He is another example of the returned blessings. We went to the same high school back in the old days. He called me months ago to ask for my business consultancy, based on my former name card in DMI. Oddly enough, I ended up seeking for his financial advice instead, thanks to his loan business background! The best part was that he refused to loan me any cent, yet is willing to restore my financial situation, with all the time he has, especially by managing the funding of Kon Khmer Koun Khmer.


Up to this point, you may wonder why I call them “angels”. In fact, without them, my 2016 would have turned out even more miserable. Oops, let us think positive now for 2017. And, of course, with or without these angels, my life goes on!

Happy and Prosperous New Year!!!


PS: I do not own the rights to those images.

Would You Like a Comedy-Horror or an Action-Horror?

So far, horror has never been my favorite genre! Currently working at PuPrum, I’ve made it a habit to explore more about Cambodian movies, although inclined to scary elements. The last two I watched were: Girl is Like That (សំខាន់អូនស្អាត) and Dead Vacations (វិស្សមកាលមរណៈ). I personally found them just above average. You may wonder why? Let’s find out below…

Girl is like that posterDead vacations poster

Girl is Like That – When you got on the first part of this horror-comedy, you’d feel like you follow a series of funny scenes of a group of students. So I had a hard time digesting the core story till I got to the big picture. Its ending turned out interesting with two unexpected twists. The first one is on who really died in the final murder. The second one is on the intention of the lead actress on the lead actor. The production seemed to also launch a great attempt to cast few celebrities in it. Guess what, they perform somehow better than their Cambodian colleagues I’ve ever seen! This proves Cambodia still counts lots of talents out there who need tapping into.

Dead Vacations – I’m not sure if the actors performed poorly or the director didn’t spend enough time polishing their acting. The production purposely cast leading big movie stars like Tep Rindaro and Chan Daraty. Yet, their parts didn’t go well with those of their juniors! Some dialogs sounded redundant with the obvious images or unnecessary repetition from previous actors. This seemed to go hand in hand with limited editing and sound effects. Would you need to hear Pin Peat music while showing an actress already seated in a praying room? I guess you would, if it was outdoors! This horror-adventure implies, though, meaningful morales about antique preservation and adventurous friendship.

Ratings: 06.5/10 and 06/10