Chris Kelly (director)
18 May 2018 (released)
20 May 2018
Shot over six years Chris Kelly has put together a compelling film exploring the pressures on a country ravaged by poverty trying to build a future that can’t possibly meet the expectations of its population. A situation that unites and splits activists, pits them against ruthless institutions and exposes a moral and ethical vacuum.
Land is precious around Phnom Penh, and valuable, so the powers that be will take almost any action to get it. That is the situation facing the residents of Boeung Kak Lake who face evictions. Faced with incredible intimidation, protestors and mothers Toul Srey Pov and Tep Vanny join forces and take on the authorities.
It’s slow at first but they learn the wiles of the media and publicity and begin to get organised effecting some remarkable results. A monk the Venerable Luon Sovath joins their cause. His skill in using social media a boon but as the Buddhist Sangha appears to be working hand in glove with the Government he’s seen by as a troublemaker, by both parties.
Adding to the pressure, the growing publicity has stirred differences within the protestors. Fissures appear and happily exploited by the authorities. Vanny is taking on almost celebrity status and as she starts to take centre stage domestically and internationally. So Srey Pov drifts into the background eventually leaving the protest movement amid rumours and accusations of compliance with the Government.
It is a long film split into chapters and Kelly’s sympathies are very clear. However with no narration it is left to the viewer to work through a complicated series of issues that all become intertwined involving the world bank, the Cambodian state and the religious community. The latter two’s collusion is troubling if not entirely surprising, a case of mutual self-preservation. As usual in these matters, crushed and battered, the plight of the people of the lake continues and, again, that is not surprising and profoundly disturbing.