A RIVER CHANGES COURSE
September 17, 2013, 7:00 P.M.
The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007
The USC Levan Institute for Humanities & Ethics' Cinema of Substance Series,
Outside the Box [Office], USC Office of Religious Life, and Migrant Films invite you and a guest to a special preview screening of
A River Changes Course
Produced by Kalyanee Mam and Ratanak Leng
by SCA Manager of Student Services Asiroh Cham
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007
WINNER of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary, 2013 Sundance Film Festival
WINNER of the Golden Gate Award for Best Documentary Feature, 2013 San Francisco International Film Festival
WINNER of the Special Jury Prize for Best Director and Best Cinematographer, 2013 The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Opening on Friday, October 11 at Laemmle's MUSIC HALL 3 in Beverly Hills
About A River Changes Course
"We've worked so hard on this land,” says Sav Samourn. “And now they've come to destroy it all. Sooner or later it will all be gone.“
In her directorial debut, award-winning filmmaker Kalyanee Mam intimately captures the stories of three families living in Cambodia as they strive to maintain their traditional ways of life amid rapid development and environmental degradation.
Deep in the jungle, Sav Samourn struggles as large companies encroach and “progress” claims the life-giving forests. She discovers there’s little room for wild animals, ghosts – and the home she has always known. In a fishing hamlet, Sari Math must quit school to help support his family. But as the fish catch dwindles, Sari and his family find their livelihood threatened. In a village, Khieu Mok must leave to seek work in a Phnom Penh factory to help pay her family’s debts. But city life proves no better, and Khieu struggles between her need to send money home and her duty to be with her loved ones.
From Cambodia’s forests to its rivers, from its idyllic rice fields to the capital’s pulsing heart, forces of radical change are transforming the landscape of the country – and the dreams of its people.
Provided courtesy of Migrant Fillms. Not rated. Running time: 83 minutes. In Khmer and Jarai, with English subtitles.
In Cambodia, the river of life flows in a perpetual cycle of death and destruction. Water is the source of all life. And the Tonle Sap River, which changes course twice a year and is home to one of the most diverse bodies of freshwater in the world, is the beating heart that gives life and sustenance to the people of Cambodia. Kbang Tik Tonle, the film’s original Khmer title, is a term that describes the traditional practice of dipping one’s hands into the water and drinking the water with both hands. This single act connects the Cambodian people to the water, to nature, and ultimately to life.
The river of life, the beating heart that has sustained us for so long is now changing course. And so the lives that depend on this river and the rich land surrounding it are changing as well.
My first trip to Cambodia was in 1998, only seventeen years after my family and I fled this war-torn country, and only a few years after the country was beginning to rebuild itself again. I was shocked by much of what I saw – the poverty, desperation, and corruption that plagued the country. But I was also deeply affected by the beauty that surrounded me – the beauty of the landscape, the people, the ancient culture, and the many smiles that greeted me in my journey. What I did not expect was how rapidly the country would change within the next decade.
Large tracts of forests, once home to indigenous tribes in Cambodia, are granted to influential logging companies. The dirt roads, once unsurpassable are now smooth, shimmering asphalt, easing the transport of freshly cut timber from the virgin forests of the Northeast to Vietnam. At the heart of Cambodia, on the Tonle Sap Lake, fishermen who once boasted catching more fish than they could ever eat or sell, now suffer from ever dwindling catch. Vast swathes of farmland once owned by subsistence farmers are bulldozed and transformed into sugar, rubber, and cassava plantations, the products of which are shipped abroad and not consumed within the country. While young village women are forced to migrate from the countryside to the factories of Phnom Penh to help their families make ends meet and pay off mounting debt.
As I witnessed these changes I wondered how the changes are affecting people’s lives and the rich country that I had first fallen in love with ten years ago.
In October 2008, as I walked through the halls of Tuol Sleng (the infamous Khmer Rouge execution center in Phnom Penh and now a genocide museum), I stared at the hundreds of black and white portraits pinned on the walls. The portraits were taken of the prisoners as they arrived at the prison, before they were forced to write their confessions, subjected to excessive beating and torture, and ultimately killed. As I looked at the faces I imagined they were portraits of the Cambodian people who are now suffering from the loss of access to their land, their forests, and their rivers. I also imagined they were portraits of women toiling in the factories, providing for their families, but also making only 2 USD a day. I wondered how I would feel staring at their faces as I was now, peering into the past. At that moment, I knew I could not wait for the future to reveal the atrocities of the present.
While making the film, Khieu, Sari, and Sav Samourn impressed me most with their strength and conviction to determine their own destiny and future. One of my most treasured clips from the film is at the end when Sav Samourn puts on her hat and gazes into the future with a look of fierceness and determination. The companies may come, the forests may be cut down, but her life and the lives of her children will always endure. It is this tenacity, the same tenacity that ensured the survival of so many families during the Khmer Rouge period, including my own, that gives me hope for Cambodia's future.
This is a decisive moment for Cambodia. And so it is also a decisive moment for the world. How do we find balance? How do we advance and develop without destroying ourselves in the process? By delving deeply into the lives of families directly affected by development and globalization, I hope this film, A River Changes Course, will invite viewers not to draw simple conclusions, but to ask questions that demand thoughtful answers and action.
-- Kalyanee Mam
About the Guest
KALYANEE MAM (DIRECTOR, PRODUCER, & CINEMATOGRAPHER)
Award-winning filmmaker, lawyer, and born storyteller, Kalyanee Mam, is committed to combining her passion for art and advocacy to tell compelling and universal stories. Born in Battambang, Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime, she and her family fled to the refugee camps at the Thai-Cambodian border and eventually immigrated to the United States in 1981. Even to this day her mother recounts stories of their flight through jungles laden with land mines. These stories and many others inspired Kalyanee to return to her native homeland and to make films about atrocities occurring in Cambodia even today. Most recently, Kalyanee directed, produced and shot A River Changes Course, winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and the Golden Gate Award for Best Feature Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and which charts the radical changes in Cambodia today that are transforming not only the country’s landscape – but also the dreams of its people. Kalyanee has also worked on 2011 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job (Cinematographer, Associate Producer, and Researcher) about the global financial crisis and documentary short Between Earth & Sky (Director, Producer, Cinematographer) about three young Iraqi refugee artists living in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. A graduate of Yale University and UCLA Law School, Kalyanee has also worked as a legal consultant in Mozambique and Iraq.
About My Name is Asiroh
A young girl named Asiroh is being bullied in school about her unusual name and wants to change it. Her father tells her about their indigenous roots as descendants of the Champa Kingdom and his harrowing escape from the Khmer Rouge. As he recounts this story, the girl’s imagination brings the journey to life through her stuffed animals and toys.
About The USC Levan Institute for Humanities & Ethics
The Levan Institute for Humanities & Ethics, USC College, issues a Grand Challenge to every new student who comes to USC--to engage with, understand, and internalize the timeless values at the core of our humanity. The Institute collaborates with departments, professional schools, and programs across the university to bring students and faculty together with authors and artists, philosophers and practioners, and the ethical voices of our time.
To visit their website, click here.
About Outside the Box [Office]
Outside the Box [Office] is a weekly showcase for upcoming releases highlighting world cinema, documentary and independent film titles. Recognizing a need for greater diversity on campus, the series will draw from around the globe to present movies that may challenge, inspire or simply entertain.
To view the calendar of screenings, click here.
Check-In & Reservations
This screening is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.
All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.
The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $10.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Avenue. We recommend parking in Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.
Name: Alessandro Ago