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Arsenic, Through the Eyes of the Poisoned


In “Born Sweet,” a new documentary underscoring the dangers of arsenic, a rural Cambodian boy struggles with questions of fate after he is poisoned by a contaminated well.

The 28-minute film, produced by American Cynthia Wade, follows a skinny and pale boy named Vinh as he struggles with his poisoning, as well as other diseases, parasites and malnutrition.

Vinh dreams of becoming a karaoke star and marrying the girl he loves. These dreams are compromised by the arsenic, as many of Vinh’s neighbors in Kandal province’s Prek Russey village suffer too from poisoning.

“Too many people have died,” Vinh says. “I am afraid I will be next.”

Eventually, the people of his village gain access to safe drinking water. Unfortunately, the poison in their bodies remains.

The film won honorary mention at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah last month.

Wade, an Oscar winning director, said she became interested in the arsenic issue after learning about the work of Resource Development International’s Cambodia office.

RDI-Cambodia uses a mobile karaoke van to help educate people about the poison, which contaminates well water and threatens an estimated 137 million people in 70 countries worldwide.

Cambodia is not the only country suffering arsenic poison, Wade told VOA Khmer. Other countries, including America, have the problem.

“This boy is suffering from arsenic poisoning from the well water in Cambodia,” Wade said. “And so you bring the audience into the story through the boy’s eyes, the boy’s longing for love, and then you introduce arsenic so that the audience can start to learn about the arsenic problem in Southeast Asia.”

Wade said she hoped the film could be shown in Cambodia so that everyone there will be aware of the dangers of arsenic.

“Cambodian people are the nicest, warmest, most open, lovely people I’ve ever met,” she said. “And I think that there is solidness and spirituality to Cambodia that does not exist here in the US.”

Wade also said she will enter the film in many other film festivals.