for Cinetalk.net

The bloody reign of Angkar in 1970’s Cambodia and its aftermath are the focal point of two essential films shown at Montreal FNC Fest this year. Graves Without a Name and Funan are intimate works by exiled Cambodians, who’s origin are true stories relating the atrocities inflicted by the regime under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.

With Funan (Annecy’s Festival top winner), Paris based animator Denis Do joins the ranks of contemporary animated features (Waltz with Bashir, Breadwinner, Persepolis, etc) dealing with serious issues rather than being entertainment work.

In Funan we follow a family, deported to labor camp, after the taking of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge. Slowly, patiently, families are separated, lives are metodicaly broken, destroyed by a sick ideology. The director and team succeed to convey, without being unnecessarily graphic, the inherent violence, the famine, executions and the fear.

While born in France, Do didn’t have to go far to delve into the tragic events, as his own mother and older brother brutal fate is the source material. But still there was some digging to do to uncover the truth and gather the pieces together, since, obviously, his own heritage is part of a collective open wound. Being born in exile, and to get to the very soul of the matter, he even made it a major issue to train people from the newly (re) born local film industry to work on the movie, to be able to tell their own story, feeling it belonged to them.

Under the circumstances, Rithy Panh’s Graves Without a Name could easily be seen as a companion piece to Funan for a double bill or a follow up to his own Oscar nominated, The Missing Picture (2013). With Graves Without a Name, Panh is going deeper into the aftermath. His take on the genocide is the quest of a wandering soul.

Rithy Panh was 13 when he escaped the Killing Fields. The survivors he portrays are in a spiritual quest to reach the soul of the deceased as well as their own. The film works as a testimony to the victims, the survivors, but also, through interviews, to some of the tormentors, who (in parts) were also victims. With his oeuvre he is dedicated to keep memory alive. But physical evidence, as nature is also covering the bleeding Earth (thus the Grave Without a Name), are more difficult to find as time passes. The task of the regime was precisely to erase memory, to break the soul. Directors like Rithy Panh and Denis Do prevent memory to fade.

Two troubled but essential works.

FNC Screenings – Graves without a name:

Thursday October 4, 7:15 PM Cinéma du Parc 2
Sunday October 7, 5:20 PM, Cinema Quartier Latin 17
Sunday October 14, 7:00 PM Museum of Fine Arts Cinema

FNC Screenings – Funan :

Saturday October 6, 7:30 PM, Cinema Quartier Latin
Friday October 12, 5:30 PM, Cinema du Parc
Sunday October 14, 9:30 PM Cinema Quartier Latin