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“Miss Landmine” in San Francisco

By: Norbert Klein Posted: October-15-2010 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 686

The Daily Californian reports on 14 October 2010 about the SF Docfest – a film festival of documentary films.

I report about it here not only because there is also on contribution related to Cambodia, but also because there are also people in Cambodia getting involved in the production of documentary videos – for example among the students of the Department of Media & Communication at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

The Mirror had reported about Miss Landmine and the related controversies on 9.8.2009 – Cambodia Made It Again into the International Media – and on 6.8.2009 – A Miss Landmine Contest Organizer Reversed Their Position, Now to Support the Stance of the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation against It. There had also been empowering Miss Landmine events in Angola.

Now it is again in the public of the Internet.

Eccentric subjects are on the menu in the ninth SF DocFest, a two-week-long documentary film festival that plays at the Roxie Theater. DocFest offers a range of films that, despite their oddness, feel surprisingly relevant. There are the sungazers in “Eat the Sun,” who stare at the sun to search for deeper meaning and a connection with nature. There’s “Dreamland,” which examines Iceland’s economic turmoil, as well as its beauty, set to a multitude of Bjork tunes.

But the Festival also sports a more serious tone. In “Miss Landmine,” the Cambodian government tries to stop a beauty pageant that draws attention to women who have lost their limbs to landmines. One film, “The Spirit Molecule,” even visits the topic of hardcore drugs, via latter-day DMT takers.

Miss Landmine

Directed by Stan Feingold, “Miss Landmine” crafts a poetic vision of the persistent repercussions of warfare and more specifically of the ongoing pain that travels through life with victims of landmines. It is not just about the misfortune of stepping on the wrong land at the wrong moment. Rather, it is about facing the aftermath of a tragic instant and confronting everlasting discrimination.

The documentary explores the development of the Miss Landmine Project, a beauty pageant for women who were amputated after landmine explosions. Some people may find such a project to be yet another disdainful, objectifying scheme against women. The Cambodian government sure seems to agree, barring the project from further advances. Yet, the essence of this expedition is quite the opposite and strives to push people to redefine their perception of beauty. Morten Traavik, the creator of the project, simply summarizes the dominant beauty standards that the Miss Landmine Project tries to dispel by paraphrasing George Orwell: “Two legs, good. One leg, bad.”

“Miss Landmine” is a voyage in the lives of women who saw their existences and hopes shattered in an instant. More importantly, it is an ode to peace and to the profound beauty that resides in each and every one of us. It is an optimistic cry to the world, which transcends the boundaries of conventional beauty and denounces the barbarity of humankind. Feingold’s reportage combines humor and compassion to uncover a controversial yet laudable mission and to usher collective action in the hope that, one day, as one of the pageant’s participants says, we will collaborate with one another to “make peace grow like a flower.”

Reported by Charlene Petitjean

A video trailer of the documentary announced for the SF Blogfest is down here:

Miss Landmine

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 686 - Thursday, 14.10.2010
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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