Dialog Box

Arts | Community | History | Human Rights | Refugees | Rural | Social Justice
A Requiem for Cambodia
In 2017 a world tour premiering in Australia will present a new symphonic stage production to commemorate the genocide of two million Cambodians who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime -Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia.
This documentary will tell the story of its staging, a fusion of music, voice, movement and projected images, as well as a story of human survival & the renaissance of an artistic life that disappeared along with more than a third of Cambodia's population less than forty years ago.
Two childhood survivors of that genocide are contemporary artists Rithy Panh world-renowned filmmaker and Him Sophy, composer. They are collaborating for the first time on a unique Requiem representing their shared history.
Most Cambodians are Buddhists who believe that the dead will not rest in peace or be reborn without proper religious rituals and this Requiem’s libretto, based on Bangsokol a traditional Buddhist ritual for the dead, will combine Western chamber music and chorus with traditional Khmer instruments and vocalists.
The Requiem has been commissioned by Cambodian Living Arts a not-for-profit organization leading Cambodia’s artistic and cultural redevelopment. CLA’s vision is to revive their lost arts & bring international attention to the role the arts can play in rebuilding war torn societies.
This production is huge for impoverished Cambodia. In four years they lost a whole generation of the educated, artists and musicians leaving a cultural wasteland. Needing help CLA called on international performing arts professionals. New York based theatre and events specialist Rachel Chanoff is producer. Australian Gideon Obarzanek a world renowned director & choreographer is Creative Stage Consultant. Trent Walker an American scholar with years of experience studying Asian Buddhist texts, ritual and music has written the libretto.
The international professionals are aware of the high stakes involved in mounting this ambitious work. Cambodian musicians will travel with the production but Western-style musicians must be sourced elsewhere, an expensive undertaking.
Phloeun Prim CEO of CLA, himself a child survivor, is responsible for fundraising. He travels the world speaking to arts organisations, philanthropists & governments seeking partnerships.
One successful collaboration is with the government of Taiwan. The first real rehearsal will be in a Taipei theatre with the Taiwan Philharmonic Orchestra, cast, props and costumes in March 2017 and that is where our documentary shoot must begin capturing the rehearsal and personal stories. Rithy Panh, Him Sophy, Phloeun Prim and the Cambodian musicians all with their own experiences of life under the Khmer Rouge and reasons for being involved with this Requiem.
The film will follow their stories through preproduction leading up to the premiere performance at the Melbourne Festival before it tours to New York, Montreal, Abu Dhabi, Paris and eventually Cambodia.
Aims & Objectives

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?

We aim to draw world attention to the power of the arts and culture in healing societies traumatised by war. In this film we are using not only the example of the stage production of Bangsokol – A Requiem for Cambodia - as a vehicle for healing but also personal stories of the creators and performers who are survivors

Our documentary will screen on free to air television around the world at international film festivals and it will also be available for screenings to community groups to draw much needed attention to the importance of the arts and culture in healing societies torn by conflict.

In particular the plan is that these screenings will happen in the various cities around the world at the same time as the stage performances giving audiences more background knowledge of the damage of war to future generations.

What is your education and outreach strategy?

Our aim is to complete the film after the premiere performance in Melbourne in October 2017 so it may travel the world with the performance offering audiences a deeper understanding of the trauma of war on survivors and their families.

The film will be offered to schools with background notes for discussion about historical and current war zones. The film will give first hand accounts of the difficulty in overcoming an interrupted childhood, loss of family and culture.

Through community screenings and related support groups, the film will become a resource for encouraging discussion and healing.

The film will be made available to existing Outreach campaigns in Cambodia, which are conducted to inform the population about the reign of terror of the Khmer Rouge
Regime. Those activities help to bring the message of justice and reconciliation out of the confines of the courtrooms and into Cambodian society.
Aviva Ziegler
Margaret Murphy
Total budget
70 Minutes