A new short documentary film was screened at the Art Theater in Long Beach over the weekend, part of the Freedom and Hope Film Festival.
“The End/Beginning,” narrated by Sophal Ear, a Cambodian-American academic, traces the route his mother took to escape the Khmer Rouge through Vietnam and provide for her family along the way.
“It’s one person’s unique story that represents many others,” he said at the screening Saturday.
In the story, Sophal Ear follows his mother’s steps, from the Cambodian countryside, across the Cambodian border and into Vietnam. Along the way, he tells the story of her journey to his own children.
The story is told in part by his own mother, Cam Youk Lim, through recordings Sophal Ear made before she died.
“To stay is to die, to go is to die, so I might as well go,” she once explained to Sophal, her youngest son, on her decision to flee Cambodia.
It is through the kindness of a Vietnamese woman—and the clever determination of Cam Youk Lim—that the family survives and escapes, eventually making their way to France, and then the US.
The 47-minute film was produced in collaboration with Singapore’s Channel News Asia and won a New York Festivals award for international television earlier this year.
Kevin Johnson, director of the Freedom and Hope Film Festival, said the film acts as an oral history. “It is important to have oral history documented from a variety of people,” he said. “If we allow the story to be told as a collective history, we lose a lot of particularities.”
Not only does the film recreate a story of survival, but it also passes the story from one generation to the next.
“It’s crucial for the older generation to pass on the story of their journey to the younger generation,” said Justin Sok, who watched the film in Long Beach on Saturday. This will “enhance the understanding between parents and their young kids, who have not been through the killing fields.”