How globalisation has transformed the Cambodian landscape

  • <B>A young fisherman on the Tonle Sap River is one of several Cambodians profiled in the documentary film A River Changes Course, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at January&#146;s Sundance Film Festival. The film is part of the Bermuda Documentary Film Festival.</B>

    A young fisherman on the Tonle Sap River is one of several Cambodians profiled in the documentary film A River Changes Course, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at January’s Sundance Film Festival. The film is part of the Bermuda Documentary Film Festival.


Director Kalyanee Mam‘s Sundance 2013 Grand Jury Prize winning documentary, A River Changes Course, traces the impact of globalisation on centuries-old practices in Cambodia.

The cinematically spectacular and sensory journey charts the lives of three Cambodians and their families who have lived off the land and the sea but must adapt to a new reality caused by deforestation, overfishing, and the burden of debt on family life.

“My first trip to Cambodia was in 1998, only 17 years after my family fled the country,” she says. “I was shocked by much of what I saw the poverty, desperation, and corruption that plagued the country. But I was also deeply affected by the beauty that surrounded me the beauty of the landscape, the people, the ancient culture, and the many smiles that greeted me on my journey.

“More than a decade later, globalisation has transformed the Cambodian landscape. Dirt roads have been replaced with highways and high-rise department stores clog the city. The small streets of Phnom Penh bulged with traffic, the oversized SUVs incongruent to the narrow boulevards, its factories overfilled with young women making jeans and shirts for designer labels in the United States.

“In the global race for low-wage workers and natural resources, Cambodia has transformed its ancient agrarian culture to compete for international investment. I made this film to document the human cost of this transformation. And to put a human face on the beautiful traditional livelihoods that may soon be lost to the world forever.”

A River Changes Course screens at the Bermuda Documentary Film Festival on Sunday March 17 at 5 p.m. in the Tradewinds Auditorium of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Tickets are available from www.bdatix.bm, Sportseller-Washington Mall, Fabulous Fashions-Heron Bay Plaza, or by calling 232-2255. See a trailer of the film at www.bermudadocs.com

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Published Mar 7, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 7, 2013 at 9:52 am)

How globalisation has transformed the Cambodian landscape

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