SIFF Says:In a country ravaged by the Khmer Rouge regime, which killed over two million people during its four-year reign in the 1970s, Cambodia’s wounds are still fresh. But what of the generation that was born after the genocide? In a land where half the population is under 20 years old, how can they rebuild the spirit of the nation to “not just a country of tears, but a country of dreams,” to quote one of this film’s subjects. Angkor’s Children tells three stories of young women hoping to heal through the arts: Phunam, a “vagabond child” who now goes to Phare Ponleau Selpak, a school founded to help children express the trauma of war, where she studies circus arts and performs as an acrobat; Sreypov, a performer of smot (an ancient form of Buddhist poetry sung at funerals), who travels and teaches internationally with the organization Cambodian Living Arts; and the women of the Messenger Band, an all-female pop group that performs protest songs for the downtrodden and disenfranchised. Through injuries, hardships both personal and political, and the horrors of the past, these young women and their mentors emerge as beacons of a brighter future.
Some young women in Cambodia attempt to artistically express themselves, with methods that include mastering an ancient singing technique and joining a circus. It’s rare to wish for a festival entry to be longer, but at barely an hour, this just doesn’t have enough time to delve into the stories it introduces. Still, what is there is compelling. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
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