Socheata Poeuv’s Documentary Promotes Cambodian Awareness

Socheata Poeuv, creator of the award-winning documentary “New Year Baby,” adjusted her family tree many times as she followed her Cambodian lineage. Poeuv’s film details the investigation of her family history, which includes ancestors that survived the Cambodian genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge communist party from 1975 to1979. Poeuv will screen her film at 7 p.m. on Friday in Kemper Auditorium, followed by a discussion and a question and answer session. Poeuv was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and immigrated with her family to the United States when she was young. As an adult, Poeuv learned from her parents that her two sisters were actually her cousins, whose parents were killed in the genocide. Poeuv also learned that her mother had been married previously and had two other children. Her mother’s first husband and daughter were killed in the genocide. “I made the film at first just out of curiosity and a desire to understand my own family’s story of surviving the Cambodian genocide,” said Pouev. “Then I wanted to use the story that they had to tell a larger story about the legacy of genocides and about what it takes for people to heal after a genocide,” she said. Poeuv continued, “[The film] allowed them to open up more about their own stories. It allowed them to reflect upon their own experience and be celebrated for it rather than ashamed of it.” Poeuv described her hopes of the audience’s reaction to New Year Baby. “I hope that they are moved and inspired by the story. I hope that they are introduced to a family that they find to be memorable, and which can teach them something about healing,” said Poeuv. New Year Baby was released in the United States in the fall of 2007. The film took over three years to produce. Poeuv is also working to heal post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia through the non-profit organization that she founded, Khmer Legacies. According to its mission statement, “Khmer Legacies is creating a video history archive about the Cambodian genocide from the perspective of survivors…. The archive will then be used as an educational tool to deepen understanding about the Khmer Rouge for researchers, students and the world.” Khmer Legacies created an outreach program in the Bronx, New York and is developing a similar project in Lowell, Massachusetts. Tina Kit ’09 applied for an Abbot Grant in order to bring Poeuv to Phillips Academy. Kit said, “I wanted to bring a speaker here to campus to educate students about what had happened in Cambodia, do this whole Cambodia cultural outreach. Things like [the genocide] do happen, and we have to be aware of it. The more people aware about it, the better.” “It’s been over 20 years, and you can still see how much Cambodia has been affected by war — it’s still one of the poorest countries in the world,” said Kit. As part of the Cambodian history awareness initiative, the Asian Society and International Club held a joint meeting on Wednesday to educate students about Cambodian history, culture and cuisine. Kim Kuoch ’09 received a CAMD scholarship to research the progress of Cambodian students in America and the impact the Khmer Rouge on Cambodians, specifically in their choice to immigrate to America. Kuoch said, “A lot of students are familiar with what happened during World War II [and the Holocaust], but they aren’t familiar with what happened in Cambodia in the ’70s. I think that it’ll be interesting for students to learn about that, and it’ll be nice for them to see how Socheata has dealt with this and how people in America did coming from that sort of background.” Kit said that she would like to put into action fundraising initiatives for Cambodia by Spring term. “I’m just hoping that this isn’t the end of the outreach to Cambodia,” said Kit.