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In ‘Lost Loves,’ Life Under the Khmer Rouge Writ Large

A still from ‘Lost Loves,’ a film about the Khmer Rouge. Photo courtesy of Chhay Bora.

Nearly 200 people attended the film’s opening in Philadelphia last week, as the movie begins a US tour.

PHILADELPHIA - What was life like under the Khmer Rouge regime? Over the years a number of the regime’s survivors have written books describing their ordeals in words. Thirty three years later, one Cambodian director answers the question on the big screen.

Chhay Bora wrote the story from his mother-in-law’s experience, as an act of healing, he told VOA Khmer.

“All this pain and suffering, we cannot keep them inside and carry the burdens with us to the ground,” he said. “I had to make the movie to recount our bitter memories and to share the suffering and history with the next generation.”

Nearly 200 people attended the film’s screening in Philadelphia last week, as the movie begins a US tour.

The film cost $150,000 and took three years to make. Chhay Bora said he was encouraged to make the movie for families who survived the Khmer Rouge but were unable to describe its horrors to their children.

“Perhaps it’s easier for the younger generation to watch this movie than for people of my generation,” said Bunrath Math, who watched the film in Philadelphia. “It reminds us so much of the suffering. We’ve seen our siblings killed or starved to death. ”

Bunrath Math, who has a master’s degree in social work, warned people to be prepared for emotional pain, due to the realistic depiction of the Khmer Rouge in the film. He advised viewers to be prepared to discuss their trauma with trained professionals.

The film was screened here at Horace Howard Furness High School. The school principal, Daniel Peou, said the film is an important educational tool for parents and students alike.

“I’ve seen some Cambodian children and parents who don’t talk at all,” he said. “The kids say their parents don’t understand them. They don’t know what their parents have gone through. If they see this movie, they’ll know how much suffering their parents went through and what their parents had to sacrifice for them.”

Some younger viewers agreed. Heng San, 20, called “Lost Loves” a “great movie” that described “in depth” the experience of parents under the Khmer Rouge, who constantly worried about their children. “They had to watch them suffer and get killed or go missing,” he said. “And they had to watch others who went through the same thing.”

“Lost Loves” will show in nine major US cities from Sept. 12 to Oct. 4, including in Long Beach, home to tens of thousands of Cambodians.