Golden Slumbers

This 2012 Seattle International Film Festival documentary from Cambodia and France (English captions) offers terrific insight to the recent history of Cambodia. Cambodia enjoyed a thriving film industry from 1960 to 1975, producing over 400 very popular films. As life became more and more hazardous, Cambodians attended more and more movies as a way to divert themselves from their alarming reality.

Although the films were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, the music from these no-longer-existent classics is still a standby for Karaoke nights in Phnom Penh. As Pol Pot's armies emptied the cities, theaters were destroyed, ordinary citizens were forced to the fields and forests to provide manual labor, while actors, wealthy families, politicians, policemen, community leaders and other prominent people were assassinated. We see a spooky clip of Phnom Penh after Pol Pot emptied the city; later in the film we see the thriving metropolis that has rebounded.

One theater building that had been gutted now shelters 116 families huddled in its hulk. We see two devoted cinephiles who discuss old movies they saw when they were boys. They actually had more fun than we did as we watched them reminisce.

We found the most engrossing part of the film to be the first-person narration of events from a few survivors. One brief clip shows a man declining an invitation to dance with a woman, explaining that his wrists weren't flexible enough. The dance that followed certainly illustrated why flexibility would be essential! The paltry number of film excerpts are so scanty we can scarcely draw any conclusions from them. Instead the men and women who related their own tragic experiences were far more interesting.