Dialog Box

Arts | Community | History | Human Rights | Refugees | Rural | Social Justice


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In October 2017 a world tour of a new stage production premiered in Melbourne, Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia, is a unique fusion of music, voice, movement and projected images commemorating the 2 million Cambodians who died at the hands of the Communist driven Khmer Rouge regime while celebrating the renaissance of an artistic life that has all but disappeared. The Requiem has been commissioned by Cambodian Living Arts a not-for-profit organization. CLA’s vision is to revive their lost arts & bring international attention to a world still besieged by conflict, that the arts can be a powerful tool for healing and play a role in rebuilding war torn societies.Over one year, this documentary charts the staging of the Requiem interweaving heart-wrenching accounts of survival of those involved.The Requiem’s principal creators are childhood survivors, world renowned filmmaker Rithy Panh, and Cambodia’s premier composer, Him Sophy. They are collaborating for the first time to bring their traumatic shared history to a world audience.Most Cambodians are Buddhists who believe the dead will not rest in peace or be reborn without proper religious rituals. The Requiem’s libretto is based on Bangsokol the Khmer Buddhist ritual for the dead. The music is a combination of traditional Khmer instruments and vocalists and Western chamber music and chorus.  Projected on a screen is a triptych of images from Rithy Panh’s earlier films, archival footage and new footage presenting a visual history of Cambodia’s recent past illuminating the meaning of the musical work.This stage production is huge for impoverished Cambodia. The loss of most of Cambodia’s artists and intellectuals left a cultural wasteland taking generations to reverse. Realising they couldn’t do it alone CLA called on international performing arts professionals to help. New York based theatre & events specialist, Rachel Chanoff, is producer. Australian Gideon Obarzanek, a world-renowned director & choreographer, is Director of Staging and Trent Walker an American scholar with years of experience studying Asian Buddhist texts, ritual and music has written the libretto. Phloeun Prim, the charismatic Executive Director of CLA, himself a child survivor, is responsible for finding the funds. Over 3 years he travelled the world appealing to arts organisations, philanthropists and governments to become partners.With no suitable theatre or experienced western-style musicians in Cambodia, the production needed somewhere to rehearse and the Government of Taiwan helped by providing a theatre and Philharmonic Orchestra in Taipei for their first full rehearsal …and we were there to shoot it. The film follows their stories through pre-production leading up to the Melbourne premiere performance before it tours to New York, Boston, 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