A Khmer story

Film. This cartoon immerses us in the heart of the Cambodian revolution, with a woman separated from her child by the Khmer Rouge. Denis Do’s first full-length movie deals with human relationships’ difficulties when they are intensified by totalitarism.

By Tess Volet

Everything starts in April 1975 when Ankar’s communist partisans take over Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. A bloody revolution- between 1,7 and 2 millions of victims. In order to achieve this revolution, the organization aims at reaching an ideal inspired by Maoist through a forced return to nature. Marked by middle-class intellectuals’ killing and a propaganda that brainwashed even the youngest ones. Women and men are separated from children and old people and everyone is ascribed different tasks. These facts have been adapted in 1984 by the director Roland Joffé in the movie The Killing Fields, awarded with 3 Oscars.

High-quality work on memory and human relationships

In Funan, The director Denis Do portrays a desperate mother (who’s in fact his own mother) looking for her child, in an extremely hostile political context. The slightest mistake and you are dead. The relationship she has whith her husband Khuon depicts the torment felt by Cambodian citizens at this time. Powerless in front of their country’s situation, Chou and her husband are trying hard to gather their family together. Facing injustice, distress, powerlessness, they are going to tear each other apart, rediscover each other, love each other and learn how to fight together.

The drawings of emotions and pain on the characters’ faces are, thanks to the game of colours, both subtle and flagrant. Their physical and mental states evolve over the years.

Dark rings under their eyes, their listless faces and empty stomachs are enough to denounce their life and working conditions. Thanks to the subtle contrast between wide and peaceful Cambodian landscapes and the desperate emptiness in their eyes. Infinite landscapes just like the parents’ infinite love for their son.

Through this journey organized by the parents in order to look for their son, Denis Do denounces the crimes of an unkown system. A high-quality work on memory and human relationships that won the Cristal for the best feature animated film at Annecy’s festival in 2018.