Lost Loves (2010)

 

 

 

Director:     Chhay Bora.

Starring:     Kauv Southeary (Nun Sila).

trying to survive under the Khmer Rogue regime in Cambodia

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

A memory of Cambodia Genocide.  Based on a true story during Khmer Rouge Genocide. 

A young Cambodian woman named Amara says that her father Prang had been a high ranking officer in the national army.  He retired one year after the coup of March 18, 1970.  He loved staying home with his family and was especially fond of playing with his grandchildren. 

Pheak was the woman's second youngest brother, who was a university student. 

Cheth, her next youngest brother, was a very happy boy even in the face of lots of bomb explosions. 

Chok was her nephew.  Her father brought Chok to Phnom Penh to study. 

In late 1974 more and more refugees were entering Phnom Penh.  Soon there were shortages of food, medicine, shelter and supplies.

IDP Camp, outskirts of Phnom Penh, 1975.  A bomb explodes in a village killing numerous villagers.  Amara and her brother Pheak try to help save some of the wounded. 

Her father was invited to leave the country by the high ranking officer, but dad refused.  Many of Lon Nol's high ranking officials left the country.  They feared that they could not defeat the Khmer Rouge. 

Early 1975.  The situation got worse.  Amara was living separately from Chak, her soldier husband.   Groups of students and politicians began to organize strikes against the Lon Nol government to try to save the country from widespread corruption.  Other students joined the Khmer Rouge revolution in order to change the regime, but most Cambodians did not support the Khmer Rouge.

Amara's father says he knows that she is upset and afraid.  She tells her father that he has to leave Cambodia because he was an important general.  The Khmer Rogue will kill him.  Dad, however, says that he will not leave his country. 

Chak comes home, but says he has to go back early the next morning.  He speaks with his grandfather and tells him that the situation has gotten worse.  The whole family comes together.  Grandfather tells them that at the end of this war, there is no guarantee that the defeated side will be pardoned. 

The next morning Chak has to leave with his soldiers in a jeep.  Amara never saw him again. 

Victory of April 17, 1975.  The day of the collapse of the Lon Nol regime.  The Khmer Rouge now start killing the soldiers who work under the Lon Nol regime.  Two soldiers seek to hide in Amara's house, but the soldiers are shot down.  Her nephew Chok was the first family member captured by the Khmer Rouge.  She says:  "I never thought they could be so brutal."   The brutal one tells the family to leave their house and don't take a lot of money.  The family packs their bags and leave the home. 

In the city they hear gunfire and cries of fear and agony.

April 17, 1975.  All families were forced to leave their homes.  Amara and the family travel for almost seven days to get away from the throngs of people.  They stop and make camp.  They have very little rice left.  Amara goes to a pond and gets water in which dead bodies are present. 

The next morning they are going to leave, but the soldiers tell them that Angkar doesn't allow anyone to use capitalist products, so they have to leave behind their German Volkswagen. 

April 24, 1975.  The family has to carry all their goods now.  The Khmer Rouge stops the family and takes grandfather away.  Angkar wants the man to be sent to the re-education center.  The grandchildren start crying their eyes out as grandfather says goodbye forever.  Amara cries too as she sees her father being driven away.

Ley Bo Pagoda, Takeo Province.  Amara's children start losing weight from not enough food.  The children beg for food. 

They stay temporarily at Wat Bo Pagoda in Takeo Province.  They wait to be told to what cooperative they will be assigned.  A soldier tells them to leave for the south village.  Together with others they go to the south village.  They referred to the people as "New People".  The name meant the people who had been evacuated from Phnom Penh.  The regular villagers were called "Old People".  The Old People were proud of what Angkar has provided for them. 

Amara is forcedto cut her hair short.  In fact, everyone has to cut their hair short.  The village was based on communal living.  "All people were required to eat and live in a collective without having any personal belongings."   They were forced to wear clothes that they had to dye black. 

Ang Dam Luk Village, Takeo Province.  Amara trips and spills some rice.  A native woman says that the April 17 people can't do anything right. 

Amara asks for permission to take her sick daughter to the hospital.  She is granted permission, but at night she will have to pick up cow dung from out of the barn.   Amara takes a chance to go see her daughter in the hospital.  The security fellow stops her and asks her what she's carrying in her hand.  She has medicine for her sick daughter in the hospital.  They boy says that she must have exchanged something in order to get the medicine, so she has to go see the village chief.  Amara starts praising Angkar to the heavens to the village chief and he lets her go to the hospital with her medicine. 

When she gets to the hospital it's already too late.  Her daughter has died.  The family buries the little girl. 

One of her brothers, Cheth, listens to "imperialistic music" and is executed.  Now her brother Pheak was the only man she could depend on, but he was an intellectual and could be killed at any time.

Phum Prey Run Village, Takeo Province, near to Thon Mon Lake.  The family worked in the rice paddies with the Old People.  Angkar gave them a little rice and corn and they would mix them together for a proper meal.  Leang and Heng were married and from Phnom Penh.  Aunty Sok was one of the Old People who was kind to them. 

Angkar never sent the children to school.  They would just make the children work like the adults.  Amara's children had to stop calling her mother.  They would catch dirty snails and crabs, boil them and eat them.  Starvation and overworking became worse by the day. 

The village chiefs had daily and nightly meetings with the New People.  They kept pushing the workers to reach Angkar's target of three tons of rice per hectare of land.  And now they are going to take the children ten years of age and over away and put them in a special work group.  Those people who complained disappeared one by one. 

Amara tells daughter Mealea that she has to pack up and go to sleep at the Village Chief''s house so she can be in the children's brigade.  Mealea cries and says she wants to stay with mother and her sisters.  The village chief has to come to get Mealea,  He says that Mealea will be disciplined for not being a proper Angkar daughter.  Mealea is dragged away from Amara.  They chain Mealea to a tree and leave her there for the night. 

After Mealea and Pheak left, Lin and Nita also left for the children's camp. Now Amara only has her youngest son, Deth, with her. 

Leang was 5 months pregnant.  She ended up having a miscarriage because she was worked too hard everyday.  For breaking the yoke of a cart, her husband was tortured until he died.  Then Leang dies.  Many Phnom Penh people died from sickness and starvation.

The girls are told that they can stay with their mothers for one night.  But now Amara gets transferred to another village.  Mealea runs to her mother's hut to find that she is already gone.  She cries when she finds no one at home.  Aunty has Mealea come over to her hut. 

1977. Thon Mon Lake, Takeo Province.  While being transported in an old boat, the old boat broke and Mealea, not knowing how to swim, drowned.

A man tells Amara to go quickly to the lake for her daughter has drowned.  She runs to the lake.  She stops a man about to burn her daughter's body.  Amara now buries her daughter by the lake.  Aunty Sok comes to speak with her.  She says Amara can't let Angkar see her weakness. 

1978.  Amara and her family, along with Aunty Sok and others are moved to another village, this one near a mountain.  Here she meets up with brother Pheak again. 

Nita is told by one of the girls that her mother is over there.  They are able to talk for a little while under the shade of a tree.  Both daughter and mother are upset that they have so little time to be together.  It's a very moving scene.  And then they have to part.

Mom goes to see her daughter Lin who is not doing as well as Nita and is sick.  Mom gives Lin a piggyback ride out of the fields and to her hut. 

Ieng Sary's speech at the United Nations in 1978.  "Our country is better developed and our people are independent.  The nation is independent.  As 'owners' of the nation, our people are working hard to fulfill the responsibilities of the new revolution."

Amara has trouble feeding her two young children. And then she is told to take her girl child back to the camp for she has been here too long. 

New and Old People were disappearing one by one.  Amara is always wondering when will it be her turn to be killed. 

Lin keeps complaining about her stomach so Amara decides to take her to the hospital. 

Svay Ampear Hospital.  At the hospital the little girl dies. 

Amara hides food for Pheak in a place where he can get to the stuff.  With the food she leaves a note:  "Mealea and Lin have passed away."  Pheak cries.  Two guards catch him and they drain his blood slowly out of him.  He dies.  And now Amara has only her little boy left and her little girl Nita.

Nita develops a big infection on her right ankle.  She has to walk herself to the hospital, which is very painful for her.

End of 1978.  Amara heard the sounds of fighting in the distance.  She now finds Nita crying over her painful infection.  She takes her to a pond and washes the wound.  Mother starts eating from the fields and is grabbed up by the guards.  Fighting is going on and the people are evacuated.  "Nita, Deth and I survived because the army of the United Front defeated the army of the Khmer Rouge."  Amara and her children are forced to go up into the mountains.  Many people died from sickness and starvation.

The prisoners start slipping away from the guards at night and making their way back.  The guards start chasing after the group with Amara, her children and Aunt Sok.  They are shooting at the escapees. 

Amara and the others hide in a cave.  The Khmer Rouge say for them to come out.  So only Aunty decides to go out and pretend that she is all alone.  The two women say goodbye to each other.  Aunty is shot down.  Amara goes out to see if she can save Aunty, but they shoot at Amara and the next we see her, she is floating downstream in the river. 

Nita and Deth look for their mother.  They find her and cry over her body.  Amara awakens.  The kids are so relieved to discover that mother still lives.  And mom is happy she's alive.

"3 years, 8 months and 20 days had made my family's life completely lost and lost forever.  We have to walk on the new way, the way of hope and we have to build our life from scratch and learn how to start life all over again."

"It has been more than 30 years since that time, but other Cambodian families and I have never forgotten the painful past which lingers in my heart till today.  I hope the circumstances of my story will never ever happen again to my beloved and unfortunate country."   

"This film is dedicated to all the grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, uncle and aunts, brothers and sisters and all the children who lost their lives during those darkest years of Cambodia's history."


 

Very upsetting and at times very tough movie to watch because of the atrocities committed on the Cambodian people by the Khmer Rouge.  It does have a happy ending of sorts, but you have to follow a Cambodian family through hell to get to that point.  It is just astounding how human beings can be so cruel to other human beings.  The film documents many of the atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge and that's important as a reminder of human indecency.  You have to admire the survivors of this Cambodian hell and you do.  The Khmer Rouge probably would have killed everybody if they had more time to commit their brutalities.  There are so many historical movies telling of the various terrible injustices committed in countries all around the world.  The effect can be a bit depressing on the viewer. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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