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From Ashes and Dust - The Monivong Boulevard

“Cambodia. How should you understand it? For the first time ever you enter the country that was the home of your father. A country that had to start again from scratch. You come from the other end of the world and you are looking constantly at the

people’s past, at their screaming memories, at their deceased, at their grief. But what about them? They have to live on. A different life.”

The Monivong Boulevard leads directly through Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. It is the most important trade route of Phnom Penh and stretches from one end to the other. Thus, it is like a cross section through life in the finally peaceful but extremely poor city on the Mekong with over a million habitants.
In 1975 the Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh by force. In the countryside they started one of the most dreadful dictatorships of mankind. Phnom Penh became a ghost town, only about 100 people dwelled in the destroyed former “pearl of Indochina”. Houses, streets, and the sewerage system disintegrated. After the fall of the Pol Pot regime in 1979 19 years of civil war followed. During this time the first people came back to Phnom Penh. But mainly in the past few years, the peaceful years after 1998, the population dramatically increased to around 1.3 million. The people have rebuilt the city – from ashes and dust.
The film by Marina Kem shows the everyday life of Cambodians along the Monivong Boulevard. Their lives in poverty, working as traders, couriers and craftspeople. Their sorrows, hopes and conceptions of a good life. The film searches for their will to survive and discovers humour, optimism and great compassion for those who are even poorer or weaker. “What do I dream of?” wonders Hang Kim An, protagonist and trader in the slum area, “I dream that I will have a lot of money to give it to the orphans. That’s all. I don’t have any other dreams. I just want to live a normal life.”

“Suddenly you are standing right in the middle, in the dust, between strange people. Who are these Cambodians? They look at you with their dark eyes. Do they look accusingly?

Do they expect something? They are smiling. You have heard about that before. Sourire Khmer. That’s what the French called it, the unfathomable friendly yet repelling smile. No invitation, no rejection.

So, what are you supposed to do? You decide to keep on walking through these streets, just continuing without searching for anything special. That is strange to them. Now they look you over and you smile back: unfathomable and friendly.”

TV channel:   ARD/SWR  
Length:   60 minutes 
Director:   Marina Kem
Cinematography:   Ulrich Nissler
Editor:   Saskia Metten-Nuhn
Production:   Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg
Category:   Documentary


Author & Director: Marina Kem | Cinematographer: Ulrich Nissler | Editor: Saskia Metten-Nuhn | Sound: Lorenz Pagés | Unit Manager: Sochanthy Chhoeung  Chamroeun "Nack" Chea | Reseach: Dr. Ottara Kem | Head of Production: Jochen Dickbertel | Production Assistant: Daniela Fritz | Commissioning Editor SWR: Ebbo Demant

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