Human Trafficking Survivors Inspire Short Films

Young Cambodian filmmakers teamed up with human trafficking survivors last month to write scripts inspired by true events, casting mostly unknown actors in their short films and shooting scenes in Siem Reap, all in a whirlwind and on a shoestring budget.

Beginning today, the results of their two-week course will be screened for Phnom Penh audiences, along with other short films by Cambodian and foreign directors.

A promotional image for “The Last Moment,” by Voun Boren.
A promotional image for “The Last Moment,” by Voun Boren.

The 5th annual Chaktomuk Short Film Festival, running through Sunday, will feature 26 Cambodian and six international films, ranging in length from two to 30 minutes, exploring issues such as the exploitation of migrant workers by labor recruiters and how divided families cope when members must migrate to make a living.

This year, the festival’s organizers are seeking to use “film as a media platform to educate the public about a bigger issue that’s happening in Cambodia,” festival director Remy Hou said.

Organizers received more than 200 submissions from over 50 countries, including 33 from Cambodia.

In five of the seven shorts that came out of the October film course, human trafficking survivors not only offered their stories, but also acted in the films, Mr. Hou said.

Whether they had starring or supporting roles, or worked behind the camera, “all of them have roles in the films,” he added.

One film in the showcase, “Back Homeland,” was inspired by the hardships of 28-year-old filmmaker Ek Samedy’s older brother and former neighbors, who were cheated by labor brokers promising well-paying jobs in Thailand. “I got a real experience from my brother,” he said.

He made the film to inform people about the potential dangers of labor migration. “If you watch my movie, you can understand,” Mr. Samedy said.

The films will be shown at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and Major Cineplex at Aeon Mall. Admission is free.

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