If I was asked to watch a Cambodian movie time and again, “Lost Loves” must be one. For this second time, I was invited by Sabay Cineplex to attend their press screening. Even though I missed the first 20 minutes, I’ve actually known Mr. Chhay Boran, Director of that film, personally since the first time I watched this at Meta House. Ever since, I’ve enjoyed it a lot, but I just couldn’t make the time to write this review. Now all I know is that the movie has been screened locally and internationally many times and come back with a few awards. But coming back to the Cineplex was yet another experience because I could enjoy their more gentle and comfortable chair than elsewhere. The number tag on the back of each seat made us very easy to find our spot. Surprising Tharo, a pioneer 4Ker, was sitting on the same row as I, taking notes of what he saw on the screen. If you want to have some information about this tragedy, here you go.
“Lost Loves” tells the true story of a woman who lost most of her family during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, which oversaw the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. It was the year when Khmer Rouge came into power, beginning nearly 4 years of bloody rule over the Cambodians. Amara (Kauv Sotheary) adapted to this alien world, the familiar structures of Cambodian life crumble around her: she was separated from her middle class family in Phnom Penh, cruel and uneducated children took positions of authority over adults, and unending, grinding labor under the hot sun becomes the central fact of her life.
(Women and children were sent to collective camps to work in farms and plantations for food they could not eat; men were exhausted at labour camps and intellectuals or suspected persons with any “connections” that went against the revolutionary ideology were tortured and executed.) The mysterious Angkar (“organization” in English), the Khmer Rouge’s name for itself, is omnipresent yet somehow always hidden. “The village chiefs endlessly talked about Angkar, Angkar, Angkar, but I didn’t know what Angkar is,” Amara says in the film.
All of her family members had to struggle to survive but some of them left her one after another because of different reasons including illness, and killing.
This movie is not only show the writer’s tragedy, but also reflects how society at that time looks like since most people in Pol Pot regime also face the same things of losing their relatives as Amara.
I have watched a few tragedies about Khmer Rouge, but it was the first time for me to see a Cambodian motion picture with universal appeal: family and motherhood. Imagine you’re in the middle of a happy family reunion. Suddenly, a sad piece of news erupts that you have to break up under a certain order. Are you willing to face that fierce moment? When you know your brother is in hunger while working too hard, will you stay numb and do nothing? You may do something, but you’ll feel frustrated to know that you help find him food only to see him killed by a cruel authority that catches him eating.
While most films about Khmer Rouge tend to be propagandistic, “Lost Loves” is quite an exception. Although the first part of the movie describes the heroine’s family as affiliated with Lun Nol, the rest of it portraits plain and common trauma most elderly Cambodian people suffered from. An elder man sitting next to me re-affirms this to me a few times. This is also what I like about the movie: impartiality. But for sure, a strong stand or emotion can be felt and found when one went through hell like between 1975 and 1979 in Cambodia.
Music and Sound
I think the music Mr. Chhay Bora used was very well selected and superbly suitable for most scenes. I don’t know how he got those pieces, but I seem to hear them in some international movies, too. No wonder it won international awards! But maybe music is universal language. However, what I find pathetic is how the sound was mixed and edited, especially when I heard low and high pitches near each other without reason!
In short, I find more of what to enjoy than what to criticize about “Lost Loves”, compared to average Cambodian movies. I also appreciate, among others, how the cast acted and how committed the director has been, to bringing his film anywhere possible – in the country or overseas. Of course, it’s not to earn any commercial success, but to bring part of tragic Cambodia to the (unknown) world, hopefully, to make positive changes. Of course, with such talent and passion, I believe Mr. Chhay Bora will undoubtedly continue to enjoy successes in his second or future movies. Maybe my film collective should learn more from him, especially during our FilmCamp coming in March 2012. Can’t wait to see him share this experience and his next piece! If you are curious about “Lost Loves”, you know where to go at the moment!
Photo: Mr. Chhay Bora