Thursday, November 1, 2012

Emotional roller-coaster

A full-house for the Cambodian premiere of Brother Number One at Meta House tonight was accompanied by a storm with lashing rain and thunderclaps, just to add gravitas to the occasion. The subject of the documentary, Rob Hamill, had made the trip over from New Zealand to introduce the film and to answer a barrage of questions after the screening had finished. The film was clearly an emotional roller-coaster for Rob, documenting his family story and his search to uncover as much as he could of his brother Kerry's final days at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in late 1978. His confrontation with the chief of the S-21 torture chamber, Duch, at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, gave him the chance to put questions to the man responsible for his brother's torture and murder. Duch's responses were less than revealing. Though a 1-on-1 meeting with the former Tuol Sleng commandant has eluded him, Rob questioned the evasive Meas Muth and Nhem En, as well as the S-21 torturer Prak Khan, who was the only ex-KR to express deep remorse for his actions. His discussions with S-21 survivor and artist Vann Nath provided some of the film's most poignant moments, and there were many in this 97-minute portrayal, and a reminder of the gap left with Vann Nath's untimely passing. Rob had this to say; "Vann Nath, what a loss. An amazing, amazing man, he represents dignity, poise, a beautiful man." He thanked others who'd helped him on his journey, including his translator, "Kulikar [Sotho] was so brave, she put herself at risk doing it." But how does he feel now, after the film and the trial? "Have I got closure? No. The grieving process is continuing. I now strongly believe in symbolism and ceremony. We can't do enough of that (grieving). I think we've lost contact with that spiritual stuff. Should more people be brought to justice? 1,000's have blood on their hands so is trying five people enough - no, its not enough but I don't think the government of Cambodia will allow any more." Rob will be in attendance again tomorrow night for a second screening, and will be at Bophana Center at 4pm on Saturday for a third and final showing before he heads to the south coast for a few days to consider some environmental work, maybe even something on Koh Tang island, the spot where the Khmer Rouge captured his brother 34 years ago.
Translator Kulikar Sotho and a picture of her father

Rob Hamill talks to Kerry's shipmate John Dewhirst's sister Hilary

The thumbprint of Kerry Hamill on his S-21 confession

Thanks to Rob for a mention in the credits of Brother Number One

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