One legend says that Cambodia was spawned from the union of a princess and an Indian Brahman. We have since learned of several remarkable episode from its history, including the glorious centuries of the Khmer Empire and the tragic regime of the Khmer Rouge. Both of these periods continue to leave a mark, each none in its own way, on the face of contemporary Cambodia. On the one hand, strong traces left by the radical communist movement remain widespread across the country, including in the behaviour of individuals; we find them in infrastructure, in society's organisation, in the form of political taboo, and especially in a certain scratching out of faces. On the other hand, although equally threatened as the population itself living under the Khmer Rouge, the heritage of yesteryear has regained strength and vigour in parallel with the reconstruction of cultural identity. As such, religious practices are once again authorized, and traditional ceremonies carried out under the guidance of secular figures have, in certain cases, become emblematic of the nation.
In this context, the way in which the past is mixed ceaselessly with the present, even as the people dare not look on another in the eye, is quite intriguing. Firstly, the lighting conditions between indoors and outdoors prove to be quite brutal: dark corners emerge as soothing refuges whilst rays of sunlight strike violently outside. Numerous contradictions then appear as the population and its history are approached: joy and pain, rags and riches, love and hate, life and death.
The same scenario could be played out somewhere else, but here we are talking about Cambodia, with its own unique peculiarities – a violent contrast between the brilliant elements left from its past and a present barely recovering from its recent tragedies.
Video stills from the 3' loop