Cambodian filmmaker uses fiction to teach facts about Khmer Rouge

One Cambodian filmmaker thought a popular film about the Khmer Rouge regime might reach a wider audience than the numerous documentaries and tomes that exist on the subject.

Courtesy of Chhay Bora
A still from ‘Lost Loves,’ a film about the Khmer Rouge.

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Chhay Bora had never been to film school, but his first movie, “Lost Loves,” made a Cambodian-American girl cry and an official from the Ministry of Culture collapse as he walked back to his seat after the screening.

The first feature film about the Khmer Rouge by a Cambodian director and actors in more than 20 years tells the story of the film director’s mother-in-law, who lost her husband, brother, father, and three children during the regime.

Mr. Bora said he made the feature for young Cambodians who don’t read foreign books or watch documentaries – and some of whom doubt the killings and starvation took place.

“Cambodian-Americans and French Cambodians write a lot of books and produce a lot of documentaries, but those films don’t really have an impact among Cambodian people,” he said. “Documentaries don’t seem real when people watch them; they cannot imagine what [it was really] like.”

Bong Chanraingsey, an 18-year-old student, held back tears after a screening at the National University of Management in Phnom Penh. “If I didn’t watch it, I wouldn’t believe that it’s a true story that happened in Cambodia,” he said.

“Lost Loves” is the second film about the Khmer Rouge by a Cambodian director to come out in the past year (following the documentary “Enemies of the People”). “ ‘Lost Loves’ [tells the story of] one of the victims, who can present all of us to the world,” says Bora, who hopes to bring his movie to the United States.

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