Beginning the second half of this year’s World Cinema Documentary Competition: Kalyanee Mam’s A RIVER CHANGES COURSE, on the radical transformations taking place in the filmmaker’s native Cambodia.
Sundance Program Description:
In her feature directorial debut, Kalyanee Mam, the cinematographer for the Academy Award–winning documentary INSIDE JOB, explores the damage rapid development has wrought in her native Cambodia on both a human and environmental level. Rural communities, used to reaping the bounty of their mountainous jungles and lush rivers, have witnessed their forests being cleared, land becoming scarce and costly, and fishing stocks rapidly depleting. No longer able to provide for their families, and often accruing massive debt as a result, many Cambodians have been forced to leave their rural lives behind to seek employment in the industrial factories of Phnom Penh.
Following her subjects for more than two years, Mam achieves a profound intimacy with them as they confront these challenges in this stunningly shot vérité portrait. Unable to pursue an education, and forced to separate from their families, they find it hard to imagine a better future when they can barely survive in the present.
As noted, Mam served a critical role in INSIDE JOB, credited not only as cinematographer, but also as an associate producer and researcher. Beyond winning the Oscar, the doc also picked up accolades from numerous critics associations and from the Directors and Writers Guilds. Executive producer Youk Chhang and producer Ratanak Leng work toward justice by researching and documenting the history of the Khmer Rouge era at DC-CAM, the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
Why You Should Watch:
As noted in my program description above, Mam gets to the heart of several critical problems plaguing the rural people of Cambodia, wisely using the stories of her three subjects and their families to tell the larger cautionary tale of the national impact of shortsighted development.
View the film’s trailer. For more information, visit the doc’s website and Facebook page. For Mam’s thoughts on the film, check out her Indiewire interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.