a fifty-some year old fisherman who survived the Maoist Khmer Rouge reign of
terror, words cannot adequately describe the tortures he endured. Yet, he is
compelled to silently testify, nonetheless. Despite the language barrier, Tut
conveys the horrors of his ordeal to filmmaker Alexandre Liebert in the short
documentary Scars of Cambodia (trailer here), which screens
during the 2014 Montreal World Film Festival.
is a fisherman in the coastal village of Kampot. He is a rugged man of dignity,
who was swept up in the genocidal Khmer Rouge machine that killed an estimated
twenty-one percent of the nation’s population. The titular “scars” are
metaphorical, but Tut also bears plenty of physical kind, still visible decades
Scars represents a somewhat
experimental approach to documentary filmmaking, but it succeeds on its own
terms. Tut rarely speaks and Liebert never subtitles him, yet his body language
is beyond eloquent. It becomes crystal clear Tut endured beatings, stabbings,
electrocution, and that favorite of torturers down through the ages—the old
pliers to the finger nails.
question, it is an act of courage on Tut’s part just to revisit these ghastly
memories. As some consolation for viewers, he now seems to be a respected
member of his community. Yet, the audience will be left with numerous
unanswered questions, especially considering Tut and his wife are probably old
enough to have a large extended family, yet it seems to be just the two of them
from what we can glean.
Although conceived as part of a larger
prospective web-documentary series and photo exhibit project, Scars ably stands on its own. It
probably should not be the first or last film anyone sees on the Khmer Rouge’s
socialist madness. Everyone really should initially have it initially spelled
out for them. Still, Scars of Cambodia is
an unusually powerful manifestation of non-verbal oral history. Highly
recommended, it screens Monday (8/25), Tuesday (8/26), and Wednesday (8/27)
during this year’s MWFF.
Labels: Cambodia, Documentary, MWFF '14, Short Films