Frequently Asked Questions

Did the villagers really help direct the film?

Yes!  With the assistance of Ella Pugliese, Nou Va, Jens Joester and the film crew, the villagers were guided through a process of first determining whether or not they wished to embark on a film project, and second creating the content for the film.  They were taught to use video cameras and microphones and produce the film that they envisioned.

How did the participatory approach work when making this film?  

Many victims of mass atrocity and severe human rights violations avoid talking about what happened to them. In most cases it is extremely difficult for the survivors to put their experiences into words of narration and meaning. Trauma research reveals that facing traumatic experiences and transforming them into a coherent narration are necessary steps towards recovery. It is largely for this reason that this film project allowed witnesses of mass atrocity to be the authors and arbiters of his/her own recoveries by following a participatory approach from its inception. 

For many Khmer Rouge survivors, sharing traumatic experience with others is a precondition for the restitution of a meaningful world. Remembering traumatic experiences brings up painful emotions. In the case of this film project, operating under a participatory methodology, this challenge of facing fears and confronting the past was approached in a conscious and careful manner; intense emotions could be shared with others in a safe and respectful environment. Through the video aspect of the project, people were offered something tangible to produce. They were able to brainstorm and create their own ideas through discussion groups, painting workshops and filming. All villagers were able to provide feedback and contribute throughout the process. Though operating under a participatory approach is complicated, the villagers of Thnol Lok became the producers and directors of their project, utilizing the emotional and technical support of their neighbors and the crew that came to assist. 

Ultimately, the participants were responsible for the direction and the content of the entire project.  As a result, the film project empowered people to confront their complex pasts and to reconstruct the history of their community.

Where will this film be shown?

This film was created to serve as a tool to assist victims of violence to talk about their experiences and find creative ways to heal from their past.  NGOs will use it throughout Cambodia.  It is available for use in other areas affected by conflict and also to inform the general public in areas around the world about the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia.

How did the villagers feel when making the film?

Through the participatory approach, the villagers came up with the idea to reenact scenes from their past and decided on their own to design the scenes and film them. Because the villagers directed this process, they were prepared and accepting of the challenges of facing their memories. 

While some parts of producing the film were painful, many of the villagers expressed that they felt very relieved after finishing the production of this film. Telling and documenting the truth by facing the past allowed emotional processing of the events. The participants shared on camera and in person that they felt a sense of peace and closure after sharing their stories and creating a record of their experiences. 

Psychosocial professionals were present throughout the entire process (before, during and after the filming) to support villagers who were in need of assistance.

What should viewers do, if they experience intense emotional reactions during or after watching the film?

Recommendations by the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization, Phnom Penh:

  • Breathe in and out deeply and focus on the world around you (on people and objects around you) to control your body and your breath.
  • Share your feelings and thoughts with trustworthy others.
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings.
  • Contact a mental health expert.  If you are in Cambodia, call the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization’s toll free hotline:
    +855 23 350 888_17 222 372


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