Lovely Readers, I am so excited about this. I was gutted when I wasn't able to see even a single screening of the new 30 minute silent film "Scars of Cambodia" at the Cambodia International Film Festival. Today, at 5:30, I'll get my chance to finally see the film, directed by Alexandre Liebert, as well as check out the photo exhibition by Emilie Arfeuil.
I was lucky enough to get to chat with Emilie and Alexandre back in November for the December issue of What's Up Phnom Penh, and by the time we were finished chatting, I felt like I could have written a four page article, instead of the 2400 characters I was given.
I missed out on writing about things like Emilie's lightpainting technique, which we get to see a bit of in this trailer. For this technique, Emilie and Tut, the subject of the film, would wait until night fell outside Kampot and begin the very intimate process of "painting" certain areas of Tut's body with light as he sat very still.
During the interview, I was entranced by the way Emilie described it as something of a ritual for the two of them during the time she spent living in Tut's village and filming him, and the way that she said that nothing else existed in those moments. I can't wait to see more of it in the film, as well as in her photo exhibition, and see how her lightpainting adds more to Tut's storytelling.
Here's the original article that I wrote for the December issue of WUPP to explain more about the content and such.
Scars of Cambodia
A Story With No Words
If someone approached you in the street because you resembled their lost sister, would you stop and try to communicate with them? Would you later return to their village and devote the next stage of your life to bearing witness to their story?
Photographer Emilie Arfeuil opted to stop. After her chance meeting with a 52 year old fisherman named Tut on the streets of his small village outside Kampot, she returned with Alexandre Liebert, a friend and director, and watched as Tut began to tell his personal story about the Khmer Rouge. The French duo provides a stage for Tut to share his experience in their work ‘Scars of Cambodia’ – a multimedia project comprised of a body of photographs, a thirty minute film, and an upcoming web documentary.
Emilie and Alexandre found a unique skill in Tut’s ability to explain his story in great detail without ever relying upon words. Instead, an original cello score is the background as the full story of the trauma this man deals with becomes clear through his gestures, glances, habits, and, most hauntingly, the scars he bears and the tools he uses to mimic the actions of his torturers.
Throughout the two months of filming, Emilie and Alexandre formed an intense and intimate relationship with Tut, even living with him in his home. Amazingly, it was a relationship that did not involve a translator. As they explained, a translator was brought in only two or three times during the entire process, mainly to ensure that what had been interpreted was correct and to explain to Tut the next steps of the project. In the end, Emilie and Alexandre said the translator couldn’t really tell them anything that Tut hadn’t communicated while silent.
Both photographer and director have agreed that, symbolically, the debut of their work must take place in Cambodia, and are ecstatic that ‘Scars of Cambodia’ will begin its international tour here. From their telling, however, the most important of the film’s screenings will be that done by Tut, alone.
If he agrees after seeing his story reflected back on the screen, Emilie and Alexandre will rig up a sheet and a projector in a field outside his village. His community will be invited to this outdoor screening so that Tut might share his story with those whom he’s been living closest for the very first time.
The film portion of 'Scars of Cambodia' debuts at the Cambodia International Film Festival in December before opening at Bophana Center on December 22 until January 5, with additional screenings of the film on December 27 and January 3.
See you today at 5:30 at the Bophana Center (No. 64, Street 200).
Congrats and good luck to Emilie and Alexandre!
xx Lady Expatriate