Peace, Justice and Human Rights.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Road to Freedom

The film 'The Road to Freedom' is based on the true story of photojournalists in Cambodia during the Vietnam war.

We are introduced to Sean Flynn swimming with a young Khmer beauty on a sunny day in Phnom Penh. We share a tender moment with them in his hotel room, all white sheets and warmth on bare skin. We know that Sean Flynn has it all.

Sean, son of actor Errol Flynn, could have followed in his father's footsteps. He had a Hollywood career of his own, and the same dashing style. But he close a different path, and an assignment in war-torn Cambodia. Flynn's photos captured the people and their lives. He lived dangerously to get them.

Sean Flynn and cameraman Dana Stone venture out into the Cambodian countryside to investigate the shadowy presence of the communist Khmer Rouge. On motorcycles, they travel through lush jungles, rice paddies and remote villages. The tranquility of the Khmer landscape is disturbed by death. A family is slaughtered, their lifeless bodies scattered. A child is left alone, crying in the road. Everyone fears the soldiers dressed in black with red scarves.

The Khmer Rouge takes the two journalists captive. We fear for their lives at the whims of young recruits, and ugly men upholding the ideals of an unknown authority. We miss Stone's wife, just like he does. We treasure the bonds of friendship they make. We feel their hope and their will to survive. And we too want the world to know about the emerging horrors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Flynn and Stone escape, but there is nowhere to run. They find a mountain temple and some words of wisdom. The Khmer Rouge finds them again.

No one knows the true fate of Sean Flynn and Dana Stone.

                                                                     Sean Flynn and Dana Stone

Sean Flynn pursued his dream, or mission, or whatever it is that drives us to get the story told. 

"You know he heard the drums of war. Each man knows what he's looking for."~The Clash 'SeanFlynn'

'The Road to Freedom' is directed by Brendan Moriarty.
The film stars Joshua Fredric Smith as Sean Flynn.
Scott Maguire portrays Dana Stone.
Tom Proctor plays Francias.
Nhem Sokun is Lim Po and Kanilen Kang is Mean.

                                                                      Rising star Joshua Fredric Smith

This post is dedicated to Tim Hetherington. Recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have shined a light on the dangers faced by reporters covering wartime events. Tim Hetherington, Oscar nominated director of the Afghanistan war documentary 'Restrepo' died this week as a result of a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya. His photos evoked an emotional response to the realities of war.

R.I.P. Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Day to Remember

IT WAS APRIL of 1975, a time of warm days and the Khmer New Year. I wondered if the Songkran goddess had descended to earth; I did not prepare any gifts to offer. The festive mood of people celebrating the three-day Chaul Chnam feasts resounded through the neighborhood. They shouted for King Sihanouk. I heard blasts that I thought were part of the revelry, but they sounded a lot like gunfire. I ran to the front gate and spotted an ice cream vendor on a bicycle with a cooler on the back. My grandfather snoozed in the hammock.
     "May I buy an ice cream on a stick, Grandfather?" I called out to him.     
     It almost looked like he was nodding. I took that as a "yes," and stepped out to flag down the ice cream man. That is when Khmer Rouge soldiers caught my attention, as they passed by at the end of the street. They rode in the back of big trucks, flashing bright red scarves hanging from their necks, worn as a belt or wrapped around their heads. I stopped and stared, forgetting all about ice cream. The soldiers looked young, like pure Khmers with dark skin. They carried guns, M-16 rifles and AK47’s, but they were smiling and celebrating victory. People lined up along the avenue and cheered as they passed by. Our neighbors were hanging white bed sheets from their windows. A man ran by waving a white flag and hollering.
       "The Battambang army has surrendered to the Khmer Rouge!"

Who could have ever guessed the atrocities that would follow that fateful day. In the next four-and-a-half years, an estimated two million Cambodians died at the hands of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime.

Never Forget.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Khmer New Year/Chaul Chnam Thmey

The Cambodian New Year is celebrated for three days, after the end of the harvest in mid-April. Chaul Chnam Thmey marks the beginning of the year on the traditional Khmer calender. This is a time for feasting, games, and offerings.

As a part of the ritual of buong suong, dancers recreate the battle between the legendary figures of ocean goddess Moni Mekhala, protector of the waters, and the spirit Ream Eyso, controller of storms. They are the origins of thunder and lightening. It's hot and dry in Cambodia this time of year. The New Year is at the height of the hot season just before the monsoon rains wash away the dust and bring nourishment to the land.

Welcome the Songkran goddess, believed to descend to earth. Maha Songkran is the first day of the festivities, signaled by the drum or bell of the Buddhist temple. People light candles, burn incense and offer thanks for the teachings of Buddha. For good luck, wash with holy water.

Virak Wanabat is the name of the second day, a day of prayer and forgiveness. Give to charity and remember ancestorsNeither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds.

The third day is Tngay Leang Saka, a time for water splashing. Bathing of elders ensures their good advice for the future. Cleansing the Buddha statues symbolizes the water that is crucial to life. It brings longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity. 

"If you are courageous enough to risk everything for being alert and aware, enlightenment is going to happen."~Buddha

Happy Khmer New Year! Sok Sabay, Chnam Thmey!

At the very least, clean your house and eat some noodles!