We Want (U) to Know

- CAMBODIA / 2011 / Khmer, English / Color / Blu-ray / 54 min

Directors: Ella Pugliese, Nou Va, People of Thnol Lok Village
Script: Ella Pugliese, Judith Strasser, Shanti Sattler
Photography: Jens Joester
Editing: Jens Joester, Max Kähni
Sound: Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, Gianluca Stazi
Music: Cambodian Living Arts (CLA)
Producers: Khmer Institute for Democracy (Phnom Penh), Gregor Matuschek (bildsturz.tv, Berlin)
Source: Ella Pugliese

An estimated two million people died in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, under the Khmer Rouge. While an international tribunal in Phnom Penh hears cases of the massacres of the former Pol Pot regime, the directors carry cameras into the village of Thnol Lok, near the killing fields. Together with the villagers, they unearth the memories of those who survived. They hold workshops to share them with the young generation, and surpassing the expectations of the directors, the villagers reenact bitter memories to create a film.

[Director’s Statement] In 2008 I was charged with realizing a film in co-operation with psychologists and social workers on behalf of the population who survived the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. I decided to reverse the usual perspective and transform this from a project “on behalf of” others to a participatory experiment with direct involvement from the rural population. To me, the real experts in the field were the survivors that experienced the Pol Pot regime. My young colleague Nou Va officially held the role of Cambodian mediator, but I involved him in the production process from the very beginning as co-director. Together we worked to get the survivors involved. They decided how to use the medium of film that we were offering them, and which stories we were going to tell together. We Want (U) to Know is the result of an astonishing process of exchange and mutual learning—it is the filmed documentation of this process.

“We want to know, but we also want you to know,” the villagers said. “We, the protagonists of this film, the protagonists of this terrible story, need to reconstruct what really happened in Pol Pot’s Cambodia. But we also need our young generation to know what we have been through, and we want the outside world to acknowledge our story.”

The very special way they have found to confront and re-define their own tragic past has surprised, touched and irritated audiences in Cambodia and around the world. We hope that this film may inspire collective action towards reconciliation at the community level and introduce video storytelling and art workshops into the public discourse––not only in Cambodia, but also in similar post-conflict contexts elsewhere.

Ella Pugliese

- (From the left)
Ella Pugliese

Born in Rome in 1974, Ella Pugliese holds a degree in Languages and a Master's in Migration Studies with a focus on audio-visual anthropology. She lives and works in Berlin as a freelance author and filmmaker. In recent years she has collected field experiences in refugee and Romani camps from Naples to Algeria. She has worked for international research institutes dealing with migration issues and has collaborated with film schools, as well as television networks. She conducts workshops with NGOs in primary and high schools, where she applies participatory practices with youth, as well as seminars about audio-visual anthropology, auto-ethnography, and filmmaking practices.

Nou Va

Born in Pursat in 1979, Nou Va holds a Bachelor of Arts in Law and another in Education, and has been working for years with NGOs dealing with Human Rights in Phnom Penh. In recent years he has collaborated on and coordinated outreach projects regarding the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and Victims Assistance and Protection. He has been training volunteers all over the country to become “citizen advisors,” citizens aware of the Cambodian legal system.