Arthur Dong’s profile of a noted Cambodian activist made its debut at San Francisco’s CAAMFest last year. Screenings followed at Seattle, Denver, Salem, Hawaii, Morelia, and Asian/Asian American fests in Austin, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles.
Based largely on Ngor’s autobiography, Dong’s film tells the story of a respected gynecologist, who, like so many other Cambodians, fell victim to the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. While he survived, his wife did not, leaving lasting scars. He drew on his experiences for an unexpected acting role in THE KILLING FIELDS, for which he won an Academy Award, and used his newfound celebrity to spread awareness of the Cambodian genocide and the ongoing subjugation of his people by Vietnamese invaders. Tragically, he lost his life not in the killing fields, but in a Los Angeles alleyway, the victim of an apparent robbery – though some still maintain that he was assassinated for his activism. Dong draws from Ngor’s book, combining narration from his nephew with unfortunately hokey re-enacted scenes from his life, set against occasional animated sequences and archival footage. While the results are uneven, the film serves as a heartfelt reminder of the direct consequences of Pol Pot’s genocidal reign and its lingering aftermath.