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Hot Docs 2017 Review: “A Cambodian Spring” (2017) ★★★★★

Injustice has a clear definition in any language you wish to search. It can happen to anyone and in any part of the world. But what does not happen often is, when justice that’s needed so desperately does not arrive to a land that needs that most. You see, people do complain every day about anything. But what should the people of Boeung Kak say or do when their houses are at stake? When they can lose anything within minutes? When struggle is the only thing they have to see another day?

Oh well, Chris Kelly’s A Cambodian Spring made my heart race so fast that I was not sure If I wanted to continue watching it. But I did. And I am glad to see its ending. Not because it gave a solution. No, not at all. It just once again reminded nothing can be compared with the taste of power… and once you do that, you will never want to change your menu… and that’s not necessarily a good thing. The opening of the film states that in 1993, after decades of civil war, the UN set up Cambodia’s first ever democratic elections and established a free-market economy. This marked the beginning of prime minister Hun Sen’s rule over Cambodia that continues to this day.

Toul Srey Pov, a Boeung Kak resident talks to the camera about her friend Vanny. By then, you don’t know much about the relationship of those two until the next two hours of the journey where you will have to learn it. Shukaku INC is a developer that wants to take over the land. As they pump the sand, the house of Boeung Kak is flooded. Police could not care less, and the government remains silent. While corruption is at its best, the people gather together to fight against the system that will take a village to beat. Will they be able to do it or not, history has already taught us that lesson.

Venerable Luon Savath is a video activist who became a monk in 1993. So when in 2009 World Bank’s Land Management Program was cancelled by Hun Sen, Boeung Kak Residents filed a complaint, requesting an investigation into the failed program. As the dispute heated over the land, 12 people from Luon Savath were arrested. A monk who might lose his title and get arrested as well, ignores the harsh reality he can face in order to have his own input in releasing his people held unfairly in prison.

As you watch Chris Kelly’s documentary film, who crafted the screenplay well and brought to us a great narrative, takes the viewer right into the center of events which occurred to fight injustice. Graphic scenes, police brutality and lost lives you see on the screen won’t make your journey so pleasant. And how could it? But it will help you and many of us to see the other side of the coin, where people on a daily basis instead of working to earn some money, they go on the streets having no clue whether they will come back home that night or not. And if they do, will they be alive or carried dead?

It’s also fascinating to see the relationship between two women who have strong leadership skills but failed to communicate with each other. As you watch Vanny and Toul, you clearly see the stress and pressure they had took over their sanity, as what they will start doing is something you should not have seen in them. But the thing is, if one of us would have the same life they had, what you or me would do is not an easy question to answer. This is why it’s necessary as you watch the movie to be less critical towards them and be more compassionate, because at the end of the day what they do is something most of us will never. Good or bad, that’s another story.

But to end that, A Cambodian Spring is a powerful documentary film. What filmmaker offers to the audience is mind-blowing. Chris Kelly’s skilful directing makes his camera to miss absolutely nothing. It captures everything you need to know, and everything that might happen after the closing credit. After so many facts you go through, you will learn one thing – fighting matters. Speaking up is important. Being not silent is crucial to ensure your voice will be heard. Whether you will succeed at that or nor it does not matter. And if you think I am wrong, then A Cambodian Spring should be able to provide a clarification….



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