Saturday, November 3, 2012

Looking at life and death

Rob Hamill with veteran photographer Tim Page at Bophana Center

A double-header today with a second look at Brother Number One, this time with an afternoon showing at the Bophana Center, whilst early evening was the third night of the brand new season from Cambodian Living Arts under the Plae Pakaa banner of shows at the National Museum. First, the documentary of Rob Hamill's search for the truth and justice for the murder of his brother Kerry by the Khmer Rouge in 1978. Another full house with Rob giving a brief intro and then a much more extensive question & answer session at the end. I found the film even more emotional the second time around, being able to catch a couple of things I missed on Thursday. The effect of his brother's disappearance and death on the Hamill family was a major theme throughout the film, though Rob made it very clear that his story was just one of millions that could be told. He was just fortunate to be able to tell it. He doesn't expect the Tribunal to go beyond Case 002, whilst he's still seeking to have a face-to-face meeting with Duch, the former S-21 commandant sentenced to life for crimes against humanity, even though he's just been turned down for a third time by the born-again Christian.
After the questions ended, I made a beeline for the National Museum to watch the third night of the Plae Pakaa season, with the debut showing of the Passage of Life theater, a new project created especially for this series of shows. It tells through music, spoken word and performance, a series of life events which by tradition, involve ceremony and these are played out on the stage by the cast, with an accompanying orchestra. They include the birth of a baby, the coming of age for girls, Chol Mlop, male maturity into the monkhood, wedding, illness treated by traditional medicine and finally the funeral ceremony. Hence the title, Passage of Life. It was top-heavy with spoken Khmer, the subtitles helped to an extent, but for long periods the mainly foreign audience were in the dark about what was being said. The Khmer members of the crowd certainly understood, especially the humorous moments portrayed by the traditional medium, though much of it was effectively lost on the foreigners. Perhaps less spoken words and more on-screen translations would help. It was certainly an eye-opener for anyone who'd not witnessed these ceremonies before - I've been fortunate to witness all of them in real-life - and opens a window into Cambodian culture they would never normally see. It's a brave move by CLA to introduce this into their program and I think with some small tweaks here and there, and even some audience participation, it will work well.
Rob Hamill contemplates a question from the audience

A man matures into the monkhood in Passage of Life

Part of the wedding ceremony from tonight's show

Members of the Passage of Life cast take their bow

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Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

CLA tell me that they will add more translations to the screen to help with the audience understanding of what's being said, as well as trying to include some audience participation too. That would be great, and a perfect way of making sure the visitors get a more-rounded performance for their money.

November 6, 2012 at 3:56 PM  

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