Interview: Denis Do on Drawing Out the Tragic Past of Cambodia in the Devastating “Funan”

In July of 1997, Denis Do had returned to Cambodia with his mother, who fled two decades earlier during the genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge, when she abruptly suggested they take a detour to Vietnam.“I did not really understand why I felt like it was a part of the trip, but my mom said, “I don’t want my son to be faced with the same situation as I did before,” says Do, then just 12 years old and raised in France. “Of course, I didn’t know what she meant, but my mother had seen tanks and many soldiers on the street and I think it reminded her of the past, the day the Khmer Rouge seized power, so I came back and did research to understand.”Although it would take a while for Do to not only figure out what happened to his mother and the millions of others who were driven from Cambodia or worse, and some time longer to find the right way to express it, the culmination of that two-decade pursuit is arriving in theaters now with “Funan,” a wrenching drama that centers on a family pulled apart by Pol Pot’s iron fist. After the Khmer Rouge take occupation of Phenom Penh, Do follows Chou (voices by Berenice Bejo) and Khuon (Louis Garrel), a young couple joining thousands of others marching out of the capitol in search of a new home, only to have their four-year-old son Sovahn wander off out of sight, requiring Khuon to fall back to try to find him. The separation leaves the viewer in the company of Chou, who trudges ahead with the ever-deepening pain of not knowing what happened to her husband and son while eventually being forced into a labor camp, but in Do’s canny choice of animation, you see the situation as Sovahn would, with each hand-drawn image growing in complexity the longer you take it in, making a tale of innocence lost all the more vivid.Replicating the tragedy on a scale that the limits of a live-action production would not allow, as much in psychological scope when Do invades his characters’ dreams to show how all-encompassing the terror of such an experience can be as physically where you realize Chou’s story is truly one of millions, “Funan” has moved audiences the world over, taking top prizes at the Annecy Animation Festival and the Animation is Film Festival, where at the latter of which we were able to catch up with the director to talk about this most personal feature, growing as a filmmaker while learning more about his family’s roots.
Click the link for interview: http://moveablefest.com/denis-do-funan/

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