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Cambodian pictures from the genocide: “Case two” at the Meta House

By: Expat Advisory Posted: July-05-2011 in
Enemies of the people screen 27th July, 7 PM at Meta- Noun Chea and Thet Sambath
Expat Advisory

Cambodian pictures from the genocide:
“Case two” at the Meta House

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, commonly known as the "Khmer Rouge Tribunal", is a national court established pursuant to an agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations to try senior members of the Khmer Rouge for serious violations of Cambodian penal law, international humanitarian law and custom, and violation of international conventions recognized by Cambodia, committed during the period between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.

As the ECCC has opened “Case 2” involving "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Eng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith last month, Phnom Penh Arts Center Meta House (#37, Sothearos Blvd) presents the art exhibition REBIRTH by Khmer painter Sokuntak Piteak and a variety of new films about the Khmer Rouge genocide and its aftermath. Some of the filmmakers and producers will attend the screenings and hold Q&As.
Swedish directors David Aronowitsch and Staffan Lindberg have followed Khieu Samphan two years before his arrest in 2007 for the documentary FACING GENOCIDE (Thursday, July 21, 7PM). Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath teamed up with British documentary director Rob Lemkin to produce ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE (Wednesday, 27 July, 7PM), which features extraordinary confessions from Nuon Chea. He admits for the first time on record that the leadership ordered executions, about which he expresses remorse. But it is the director's interviews with two low-level killers, Soun and Khoun, that are most haunting. They speak about killing their victims by slashing their throats, dumping their bodies in mass graves and, in one scene, drinking bile from a human gall bladder.

Although it was men like Soun and Khoun who killed Thet Sambath's brother, the director was able to forgive them, an act of reconciliation that he hopes can be repeated throughout Cambodia. Sambath: "I pity them. They don't understand how they ended up becoming killers. But I want to tell the truth exactly as it happened. Otherwise we will be gone soon and the next generation won't know the story."

Three Cambodian productions focus on the victims, who want to share their stories with local and international audiences. The new documentary “RED WEDDING” (Saturday, July 9, 7PM) tackles the issue of forced marriages. The community media project “WE WANT YOU TO KNOW” (Sunday, July 17, 7PM) is filmed and directed by Khmer Rouge survivors. LOST LOVES (Sunday, July 31, 7PM) by Chhay Bora is probably the best-looking Cambodian feature film in years – almost too beautiful to look at, given its subject matter. The film dwells in pleasant images of sunsets, lush green rice fields and waterfalls that serve as a backdrop to the sinister, but true story of a family whose members are killed off one after the other. "I'm no longer angry about the Khmer Rouge," says Chhay Bora, who lost two brothers to the regime. "I just want to share with the nation, and with the world, Cambodia's untold story."
On Tuesday, July 19th, 6PM Meta House’s Art Café (upstairs) opens the exhibition REBIRTH by Cambodian painter Sokuntak Piteak (born 1967). Piteak: “My father was a civil servant in the Lon Nol regime. The Khmer Rough killed him. I was put in a children’s special unit. Our duties involved collecting materials for producing natural fertilizer. Sometime, we had to travel from one village to another to investigate if a person was pretending to be sick so that he or she did not have to go to work. We had to find out if that person was telling the truth.”

Slowly but surely, Cambodia’s visual arts’ scene has been emerging from the shadow of the Pol Pot era. Piteak’s work could best be described as fascinatingly captivating and spiritually enchanting. From 1998 until 1991 he studied “Modern Art” at the “Royal University of Fine Arts” (RUFA), together with other renowned Cambodian artists such as Chhim Sothy. In 1994 Piteak became a monk to return a good deed to his parents and then left precept in 1997 and began painting. In the following years he also sketched classical drawings of the Ramayana story for H.M. Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk.

Based on traditional imagery, modern visual icons and using accessible materials, Piteak’s work reflects his personal journey as an artist and a street living individual. For years he was living opposite the “old” Meta House opposite Wat Botum Pagoda in a make-shift-hut. Australian artist and filmmaker Ali Sanderson documented his difficult living conditions for her video art piece “Piteak’s House”, which be screened at the exhibition opening (from 8PM).

Piteak: “Nowadays, Cambodian people get confused, living between the traditional ideologies and the new ones. Our leader should balance these ideologies to suit the real-life situation in Cambodia. If they do, they will be able to stimulate people to participate in developing the nation. We cannot just abandon what we have, like culture for example, we cannot just replace it with a foreign one. In the past we had a long history of prosperity. I’d like to see our people working hand in hand to develop our country and see this prosperity again.”

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