Stories Lived

Once Upon A Time In Cambodia

Storytelling is ubiquitous. However, its power to control, influence, and heal often go unnoticed. This power was incredibly apparent in the nation of Cambodia, both during and after the infamous Killing Fields. The Khmer Rouge, the group responsible for the genocide in Cambodia, used storytelling for insidious purposes. They vilified the educated, the city dwellers, and even people who wore glasses; anyone who displayed any “western” tendencies was framed as the enemy and put to death. After the Khmer Rouge was no longer in power, the aftermath was devastating. Millions of people left without family or a home had to rebuild while carrying all the painful memories of the regime.

In my journey to the country, I discovered something remarkable. After all the horror storytelling had caused in the form of propaganda, the Cambodian people found catharsis in telling their stories of the genocide to me. Arn Chorn-Pond, a survivor and activist, felt he first began to heal after the Killing Fields when he was able to cry while telling his story. Muoy You, who lost her parents in the genocide, told her story with the hope of a better future for her country. Tun Channareth, survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, uses his story to help people understand his country’s struggle. While storytelling can be used to cause pain and suffering, it can also bring hope, healing, and even peace to those who need it most.


About the Filmmaker
Submitted by Katie Speare

Katie Speare is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Attending UCLA school in the fall, she is a recently graduated high school student with a passion for directing and editing. Once Upon A Time In Cambodia was made in the Summer of 2015 and is a documentary about storytelling analyzed from the perspective of the Cambodian genocide. Her other notable works include Mask, a film about pressures women feel from the media, and Astro, Naught, a quirky music video set to an original tune by the artist Moollz.