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‘A River Changes Course’ Explores Development Impacts on Cambodia

  • Men Kimseng
  • VOA Khmer

A scene from 'A River Changes Course,' a film about rural development impacts on Cambodians. Photo courtesy of Kalyanee Mam.

A scene from 'A River Changes Course,' a film about rural development impacts on Cambodians. Photo courtesy of Kalyanee Mam.

The film follows the lives of three Cambodians, as they grapple with the impacts of development in their rural homes.

WASHINGTON DC- A new documentary provides a fresh look at how Cambodia development can damage the livelihood of rural Cambodians who depend on natural resources.

Filmmaker Kalyanee Mam, who directed “A River Changes Course,” told VOA Khmer that development is affecting Cambodians in different ways, but many people continue to lose land and other resources.

The film follows the lives of three Cambodians, as they grapple with the impacts of development in their rural homes. Sav Samourn sees the clearing of forests around her jungle home. Sari, a fisherman, watches as commercial fishing depletes stocks. And a young girl, Khieu, from a small village outside the capital, encounters mounting debt within the family, as it struggles with the annual rice harvest.

Kalyanee Mam was the director of photography for the award-winning documentary “Inside Job,” which looked at the causes of the US economic crisis.

“Development is affecting many families across Cambodia in many different ways,” she told VOA Khmer in a Skype interview last week. Deforestation, overfishing and “overwhelming” debt are making life difficult for many Cambodians, she said.

And development has come quickly to many communities. Kalyanee Mam cited an example of a community in Ratanakkiri province, once isolated, that in the past decade has seen the introduction of a paved road and its forests cut down.


“There were so much changes happening, and I wondered how this change was taking place and what standard was being considered in this process,” she told VOA Khmer. “In that process land was being taken from people in order to spur this development and that really shocks me a lot.”

Kalyanee Mam said the film is only meant to highlight the problems so that they might be better understood.

“Even now I don’t have a solution,” she said. “But I think the documentary will give people insight into what is happening to Cambodia, and I think all of us together can come up with a solution to the situation.”
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