A River Changes Course
PRODS Kalyanee Mam, Ratanak Leng
CAM Kalyanee Mam
ED Chris Brown
MUS David Mendez
PROD CO Migrant Films / Documentation Center of Cambodia
Kalyanee Mam’s vérité documentary offers a sobering portrait at how encroaching modernity is threatening the livelihoods and traditions of three struggling families in very distinct parts of her native Cambodia. Deforestation is decimating the lush mountain jungles and its stocks of wild animals. Fish are disappearing from the rivers. Fields are going neglected as workers flock to sweatshops in the capital of Phnom Penh.
Considering that her family once toiled in Cambodian work camps, Mam observes her homeland with surprising compassion, as well as the skilful eye of a preeminent cinematographer. (She previously lensed the Oscar-winning Inside Job.) Her visual compositions are astonishing, utilizing the vibrant landscapes as stunning backdrops for her immaculate studies of backbreaking labour and impossible decisions. Sincere and unpresumptuous, Mam’s directorial debut is undeniably vital, offering a universal story of survival, love and hope.
“This is a film about sacrifice, lovingly observed. Cambodia is undergoing rapid changes that are forcing people off the land and into debt… What were once mountains are now roads; what was once a forest is now commercial farmland owned by Chinese businesses; where there was once an abundance of fish, now there is a paucity. The many moments of beauty to be found in A River Changes Course represent a strong contrast with all of this.”—Vicki Robinson, Film Comment