CAMBODIA 63 MIN
A sordid story of profound indifference to individual rights and humanity at the cost of fashion-revolution of contemporary Cambodia where exodus of young people from countryside is staffing the garment-industry in the capital city as cheap workforce. The story centers on a family of young garment worker who is fighting an impending tragedy of possible amputation of his leg due to bullets injury during a workers’ demonstration. As the family sinks further into gloom, the starving labourers, ironically, toil with helms and needles for bumper output of avant-garde apparels to send them off to the insatiable West.
Lida Chan is a 35 years old Cambodian film director and producer. She first approached image analysis as an archive librarian at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center in Phnom Penh. At the time, she was also working as journalist for RFI (Radio France International). After being trained in documentary cinema at the Cambodian Film Commission “CFC-Lab”, she was working with Cambodian filmmaker and producer Rithy Panh, and directing documentary films about Cambodia’s history and contemporary society. Her first short film “My Yesterday Night” about former singer Karaoke women in the city was selected for screening at the 17th Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema (France). She was then a fellow of the Sundance Institute and the IDFA Academy. Her first mid-length documentary film “Red Wedding” was released in 2012 and received several awards at IDFA, Aljazeera, Gdansk DocFilm, HRHDIFF in Myanmar, FreedomFilmFest in Malaysia, Salaya in Thailand and have selected and screened at Human Rights Arts & Film in Melbonne, FIFDH Geneva, RIDM Montreal Documentary Festival, Mumbai Film Festival, Asiatica Film Mediale, DHFest Mexico, Doclisboa and DocHouse Festival, in United Kingdom.
The Cambodians predominantly belong to an agrarian society and are known for its quiet ways of value-based life nuanced by traditional ideals. In less than two decades, 700 000 young Cambodians living in their native abodes migrated to the city of Phnom Penh. The garment industry represents about 80% of all industries in the country. Because of favorable investment conditions, subsidies and Govt. exemptions the western apparel industry has been investing in Cambodia for fostering their multinational brands for global consumption. The United States and European Union are the major market of Cambodian garment products, presented by 45% and 33% respectively.
Even though the textile industry is the key sector for economic development and rapid growth, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries on the planet and the minimum wage remains among the lowest in the world for such skill set. When strikes and protests have multiplied, the authorities have often reacted with violence and intimidation.
This has affected the families heavily based on agriculture. While young workforce has abandoned agriculture, the older generation could not take the load of intensive fieldwork, loneliness and emotional void. It is a pity that the young workforce joining factories are equally deprived of a sustainable life and connectivity with their roots. The paradox embraces them before and after they leave their native places, with a continuous dispossession of confidence of sustainable living.
I am deeply concerned about this duality leading to mass migrations from rural to urban spaces without a tangible change freedom, empowerment and economic well-being. Concerned about the workers’ conditions and the recent disproportionate violence used against the demonstrators, I wanted to explore the spirit of solidarity among the working class of Cambodia. This is the first time in Cambodia history that workers have revolted to protest against a systematic exploitation!
While I express my admiration to the conviction and courage of these rural masses in the city as workers, I also want to add my voice to their unheard voices to make a crescendo! I see the film as an acknowledgement to the grit of working community that struggles for dignity but are abused and disillusioned by the imperatives in the name of economic performance. I wish to examine the current crisis in Cambodia because of the phenomenal over-exploitation coming from the rolling system of globalization, which has attracted, so far, a little international attention.
In 2012, I realized a film about the memory of unspeakable suffering of a woman who experienced forced marriage and forced labor under the Khmer Rouge regime. Here in RED CLOTHES I sincerely want to expose the ugly face of our so-called democracy, which is perennially oppressive and stifles all alternative voices. By the process it is becoming an anti people, insensitive to humanity. The film wishes to appear as a strong critique of the modern national politics and subsequent indifference of western countries (without claiming it to be a political or militant cinema), I instead intend to let the world experience the plight of a Cambodian worker through SOPHANITH’s family. This is extremely intensive and personal but an unbearable truth of shame of state-level vandalisation of nation and its people.
I wish to establish the fact not as simple information but as tenacious event. How far the overexploitation could attack the body? The film questions the process through the presence and particularity of SOPHANITH, which crystallizes the story of good numbers of workers from the distant countryside.
- DMZ International Documentary Film Festival — Asian Perspective Award, Korea 2016
- Free Spirit Film Festival — Best Documentary Award, India 2016
Main Competition 2017