Under the Tamarind Tree - A Cambodian Short Film
Under the Tamarind Tree - A Cambodian Short Film
Set in a rural village, 'Under the Tamarind Tree' is a tragic story of two lovers separated during the time of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Set in a rural village, 'Under the Tamarind Tree' is a tragic story of two lovers separated during the time of the Khmer Rouge regime. Read more
About this project
In ‘Under The Tamarind Tree’ the Tree is a recurring reference in the world of the Khmer Rouge.
It is a place of congregation.
It is a place of marriage.
It is a place of death.
And so, it becomes the silent witness of this tragic tale of conflict between love and survival.
Just as love begins to bloom under the shade of a tamarind tree, childhood soul mates are torn apart when their village becomes overrun by a vicious militia unit of the totalitarian Khmer Rouge regime. A policy of forced marriages results in the soul mates being arbitrarily matched up with complete strangers. The young betrothed girl soon discovers that to refuse the partner chosen for her is to die. Under this new world order, an invisible chasm must be maintained between her and her love because something as trivial as a stray glance, or mere hearsay constitutes an ‘immoral’ offense against the sanctity of marriage and the regime, punishable by death. Enduring the spirit-crushing hard labour imposed and living amidst the ever-watchful eye of a ruthless senior Chairwoman, the young girl manages to find an outlet for her feelings. The tree becomes the soul mates’ go-between refuge under which secret symbols of affection are exchanged. Yet in this hostile environment, love has no place and hope is a perilous notion. Our heroine is confronted with a choice: to live miserably or to die fighting for an ideal.
Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge: between 1970 to 1979 approximately 250,000 women were forced into marriage, in many cases to people they had never met before. Those who refused to get married were at risk of imprisonment or death. Along with the other horrors Pol Pot inflicted on a generation of Cambodians, the policy of forced marriage has left a lasting legacy which until a few years ago was largely overlooked. This short fictional film is inspired by personal accounts of victims of this bizarre policy that was supposedly designed to dramatically increase the population, in order to create more ‘revolutionaries’.
We are volunteers and filmmakers in Phnom Penh. Our daily work exposes us to direct victims of the Khmer Rouge atrocities, each account leaving a grave impression on our psyche. Having been trained in narrative film making, this project is a somewhat poetic means for us to begin to honour the traumatic experiences shared with us.
The policy of forced marriages was a pervasive but little known aspect of Khmer Rouge rule, which has been explored in documentaries such as ‘Red Wedding’. There is no dearth of true-life stories, each unique in their own way and deserving of recognition. The topic of forced marriages, however, has not been treated in film narrative story telling form. Rather than tracing the path of one specific true-life story, a narrative piece allowed us to combine glimpses of different aspects of different people’s stories that were both typical and non-typical of the experience under forced marriages, into one character that audiences could identify with. Hence, in the event that we are confined to make one film about an issue that affected so many, one perspective is that it would be fairest to make a film that attempts to encapsulate a number of different experiences without singling out one life story at the expense of excluding others.
We are inspired by the cinematography of 'Days of Heaven' and 'The Tree of Life'.
Khmer Mekong Films (KMF): A major Cambodian film and television production company based in Phnom Penh
‘Under the Tamarind Tree’ is a joint production between expatriate film makers in Phnom Penh and local Cambodian cast and crew. Our team consists of survivors of the Khmer Rouge and local professional film makers who are committed to getting this script to screen and more importantly doing it justice. The target set is the bare minimum required to get a decent film made to cover equipment and paying key crew members and cast, and editing. But we could always do with more funds to add to the production value and distribution.
November to December – Preproduction
January to February – Production
February to April – Post Production.
June 2016 - Release
Our Future Goal:
This is our first crack at crowdfunding. Ultimately our goal is to develop a feature length version of the story.
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Risks and challenges
Our greatest challenge in the context of this particular film is best summed up by Director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's quote:
"Directing non-actors in a language that you yourself don't understand is the craziest thing you can possibly think of."
And just to add to that challenge, we are shooting a period piece (in your face Alejandro!). Fortunately our local crew are bi-lingual and have experience working with international production companies shooting within Cambodia. Our cast will undertake intensive rehearsals so that they can become familiar with their characters and be accustomed to our directing.
Both our local and international crew are familiar with the context and subject matter of the film. Some of our Cambodian crew have personally experienced life under the Khmer Rouge regime, and have been helping us develop a look that is consistent and historically true to that time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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