Young Cambodian filmmakers
Via SKYPE – Touch Yinmony, Chey Sambath, Meas Roth, film makers from Phnom Penh (Cambodia) about their documentaries dealing with the Cambodian genocide 1975‐1979 as a part of Collective Trauma Film Collections. The 2nd symposium day was dealing with the phenomenon of collective trauma worldwide and some representative examples from „Collective Trauma Film Collection”. The collection “Cambodia 1975‐1979” a collaboration with META House Phnom Penh, Royal University of Phnom Penh and GIZ, a German NGO active in the field of media and education is including a range of documentaries about the Cambodian genocide and the post genocide era until these days.
The Internet conference offered the unique opportunity to meet three of the young Cambodian film directorsand talk with them about the national trauma, which is still very visible in the country.
What was the reason and motivation to start such films like The Survivor & Two Girls in Rain?
Tell us in few words what the films are about?
How was the process of film making by being confronted with the stories of survival from the genocide?
What did you learn about your ancestors, your country and probably yourself by realising the films?
Do you think moving images represent a proper medium for transferring the memory of the collective trauma to future generations?
Tell us on what kind of new projects you are working currently, and also a bit about your living and educational background.
If this is a Man, 2009, 5:09
“If this is a man” is a free adaptation of Primo Levis book “Survival in Auschwitz. The Nazi Assault on Humanity”. The film relates to the theme “Memory, Tragedy, and Truth” recalling Primo Levis words which call on us to never forget, to always see what had happened.
I used excerpts from the book, images of the Holocaust and I filmed water, leaves blowing in the wind and a solitary tree; three things that will carry on if man does not destroy them – as the memories should not be destroyed and should carry on, for us, for our children, and above all for the people who died.
“A Zionist Journey from Romania to Eritrea”
For the reader of Romanian origin may be of interest my documentary film “A Zionist Journey from Romania to Eritrea”.
This movie is a short documentary film, which was made by me in memory of my dear father, Herscu Saim Cahan, a Romanian Zionist, born in the small town of Ivesti (Romania) in 1912.
My father, Herscu, received an education of high quality, including a strong Zionist education. When in Romania started the persecution of the Zionist Jews, they suddenly found themselves in front of large and dramatic problems.
On these issues many historians have written in the Jewish world.
Prof. Raphael Vago, Rabbi Efraim Guttman and Mrs Lilli Snitzer which is also related to the family, give a broad description of Romania at the time of the second world war all over Europe and in consequence also in Romania.
Lilli Snitzer describes Herscu’s wife and her love for him through the eyes of a young girl at the time. In Bucarest, she spent a lot of time with the family because it was the period of Antonescu, the Romanian partner of the Nazi regime which did not allow the Jewish population to perform a free life.
Her memories about Herscu are of a young Zionist activist and this was the way the whole family knew him.
In February 1948, Herscu Saim Cahan, in order to escape the life of terror of the communist, fled with his wife Esther and his two small daughters, Lisa and Dova, from Romania to Palestine, which at the time was still under the
All that happened shortly before the creation of the State of Israel, which was proclaimed only on May 1948. The family not having the requested permission to remain in the promised land of Israel due to the British White Book, which restricted the number of immigrants over there, obliged him to take again a long trip towards an unknown country: Eritrea.
Herscu was forced to take refuge with his family in Asmara, the former Italian colony under the British Protectorate from 1941, after the Italians were defighted in the Second World War.
The audience will ask here and now how I am related to the Shoah or to the Holocaust, or what my documentary movie has to tell us about it?
I can assure you that my aim was just to glorify the Zionist spirit of my late father and his great personality.
Since his life occurred during the intermediate period of the two world wars in Romania, when he as a young boy was not allowed anymore to go through his studies at the Galati commercial high school and he had to submit himself
to the anti-Semitic rules of the time and to remain in his small town of Ivesti in attendance to be called to the labour force duty.
During this period he did not remain passive to what was happening in the rest of Europe and around himself, therefore he dedicated his free time to open a local Jewish school for the young scholars who were not allowed to
go on with their studies in the private or public Romanian local schools.
The Rabbi Efraim Guttman, who is the chiel Rabbi of the Jewish Romanian community in Tel Aviv, did not have the occasion to met personally Herscu Saim Cahan, but only through the innumerable articles on the local newspapers “Viata Noastra” which were published on every occasion, while celebrating Herscu’s birthday or commemorating his death anniversary. All that were performed each year by his late wife Esther together with his two daughters Lisa and Dova.
This was the only way we used to remember the horror of this Holocaust that touched every Jewish family in Europe and as a consequence also mine. As I told to you before, my aim was not of mentioning the Shoah or the Holocaust in my documentary film, although all what I mentioned before appears more amply in book “An Askinazi from Romania to Eritrea ” GDS Edition.
Coming back to Eritrea which for me was an ideal state far away from all the horrible sins of Europe, I have to bring to your knowledge and perhaps also to your surprise that the racial laws existed over there not only against the local population but also against the Jewish people. I do not want to mention the historical facts which happened during the first world war in the far away Italian colony of Eritrea with Asmara the capital.
Definitely it was very ambiguous the policy of the Fascist Italian regime towards the Jews of the Eritrean colony as well as the Jews in Italy. There was already a determinate plan how to transfer them to the North of Ethiopia as a project in common with other European countries to populate parts of their African colonies, as the British in Tanzania, the German in Madagascar as so on…It is amazing to reveal that at the time also the American President Roosevelt knew about this project which by the end was not realized and to which he opposed himself.
The other problem of Mussolini, the Italian Fascist commander, that governed Italy at the time although there was a king in power, Vittorio Emanuele III, induced the Duce to become the best ally of the German Nazi Hitler.
At the very beginning Mussolini plans were very cautious with the Jewish Italians also not to show that a big transfer of these citizens can hurt Palestine and the Arab countries as a future solution as was planned to be found for them over there.
To make a long story short, the last part of my film is dedicated to my father’s commemoration in 1999.The ceremony of this tragic day, 3 March 1974,in which Herscu Saim Cahan passed away in Asmara, and that this year marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death, his wife and his two daughters donated in his memory 25 trees in the park of Modiin – Keren Kayemet LeIsrael, which were planted in the occasion by those guests who attended the ceremony.
In 2009 there was the commemorations of his thirty-five years from his death and the two daughters give a nice presentation of the whole life of their father which was described in details by Prof. Raphael Vago head of the Romanian and East European history at the University of Tel Aviv which covered the years 1912 -1948, that were the years Herscu Saim Cahan lived and acted in Romania as one of the most important Zionist of the time.
Professor Hagai Erlich, that I mentioned before, gives a colourful description of Herscu’s life in Asmara and the local atmosphere of the time 1948-1974, when Herscu at the age of 35 arrived over there as a young refugee with his wife and his two small daughters.
After this commemoration which took place at the cultural center Leonardo In Tel Aviv, I and my sister Lisa decided to perform a similar commemoration in Bucarest.
Then we arrange that during our trip there in September 2009, in search of the historical roots of our family, we will give a cultural Sunday morning in the presence of the Romanian Jews of Bucarest who did not leave the country despite of the chance to emigrate to Israel but they remained faithful to their country of birth under the Communist regime from 1948 till the end of the dictator Ceaucescu.
Many of the present elderly people that I had the opportunity to meet, where during their youth period young Zionist follower and as a result being Jews and Zionists obligated them to spend many years in prison only because of that.
This unforgettable Sunday morning in Bucarest which was performed also under the auspices of the Federation of the Jewish Community of the Romanian Capital on September 6, 2009 that coincided also with the day of the Jewish Culture in Europe.
In order to end my presentation of my documentary film “Herscu Saim Cahan – A Zionist Journey from Romania to Eritrea”, which was realized also with the historical cultural advice of Prof. Marco Cavallarin, a researcher of the Jewish community in Eritrea, author of the book “Jews in Eritrea” and of the famous and historical documentary film “Shalom Asmara”.
My film, a documentary film of 38 minutes is being produces by the young Englishman of Israeli origin, Amit Gicelter together with Hadas Zaigher. This documentary is a detailed story of our life in Asmara with the evocation of the Romanian historical roots of the Cahan family, my love for the land of Israel, where I came to live with my sister Lisa, who unfortunately passed away on March 9, 2011, in 1967 immediately after the Six Days War.
A very short description is giving of our dear and unforgettable mother, Ester, a small and tiny woman but very clever and social woman which for us represented the typical figure of the “Jidishe Mame”. She knew also in that hard time of her life to keep a well kosher house according to our Jewish tradition
despite all the difficulties of those days. She rejoined us in Israel after our father’s death in 1974, and in the same year, a few months after Herscu was buried in Asmara temporarily we brought him to Israel to be buried at the Cemetery of Kyriat Shaul in Tel Aviv.
Esther succeeded to live near her daughters until she also unfortunately passed away in April 30, 2003 day that according to our religious calendar fe;;s in the day of the Israel Yom Hazikaron for the Holocaust.
My film can be considered as many people mentioned to me a big contribution to the Israeli, Romanian and Italian ex colonial culture full of historical documentation of the last century. In Europe, Israel and as well in Africa.
Interview Questions: Your video” Not One More” is part of Collective Trauma Film Collections to be presented in Vilnius.
What is the film about and what was the reason to start it?
The collective trauma is located in Latin America, more precise at the border between Mexico and Usa.
How do you think the trauma might be overcome, and what kind of potential is lying in the medium “moving images“ to transfer the memory of the trauma to an audience?
What is your educational, professional and living background, and in which way are you eventually personally involved or affected by the topic of film?
Not One More, 2010, 18:00
Since 1993, over 430 young women have been found raped, tortured and murdered in the cities of Chihuahua and Juarez, Mexico. Over 600 women are still missing from the area without explanation from local or federal authorities. The circum-stances of this atrocity, formally made visible by documentary filmmaker Lourdes Portillo in Senorita Extraviada, have evolved and exploded in the last 13 years. Once con-sidered the maquiladora murders, this unthinkable phenomenon is more likely caused by a complex web of social, legal and political conditions exacerbated by negative media depictions of the abducted and missing women. This documentary explores the developing culture of violence towards women that allows injustice and oppression to continue.
–>Ben Neufeld, Castaway pt. 2, 2009, 7:57
Interview question: Your video is part of Shoah Film Collection.
What is the story behind and what was the reason to start the film?
What kind of relevance has the Holocaust and its memory to you?
How do you estimate the medium of “moving images“ as a tool or instrument for keeping vivid the memory?
What is your educational background?
Do you work currently on new projects using moving images and what are these projects about?
It is such pity that you cannot personally present in Vilnius. Is there any message would like to give to the audience of the symposium?
Thanks a lot for taking your time and participating via Skype.
In Robert Zemeckis’ Castaway, Tom Hanks–stranded on an island for four years–maintains his sanity by personifying a volleyball named Wilson. On his voyage back home, Hanks loses Wilson in a convenient plot twist that allows him to avoid the problem of reconciling the irrationality of his experience during his return to society . What happens when you can’t just get rid of Wilson?
This is a Recording, 2009, 4:29
This is a Recording recounts some of the experiences I had while video-taping survivors of the Holocaust for the Shoah Visual History Foundation in the late 1990’s. The piece is a part of a series of inter-related works that include 13 Buildings and OPENED. These pieces are recomposed largely from my own fragmented family albums and sound recordings, and are essentially post-memory works, sound and visual pieces that explore personal migrations and erasures of memory. In the research and creation of my work, I situate narrative and documentary elements together in order to heighten creative relationships and also to reorient my audience’s expectations.