Programme

FUNAN

Denis Do

France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Cambodia, 2018 / 84 min / French original version (FR OV) / animation, drama

With the support of Institut français du Luxembourg

The story of one family taken in the storm of the Khmer Rouge revolution.

In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge capture Phnom Penh and force millions out of Cambodia’s capital into labour camps in the countryside. Among those deported are young parents Chou and Khuon, and their four-year-old son, Sovanh. On the forced walk with little food along a perilous route to a work camp, they lose sight of their little boy and won’t see him again for several years. Forced to work fields day and night, Chou, Khuon and the other people in their camp are treated no better than slaves, struggling to survive each and every day. Meanwhile, Sovanh is raised in another camp and undergoes the Khmer Rouge’s indoctrination. All three of them will have to learn to fight to overcome the brutal regime. They won’t give up, never losing hope that somewhere out there their family needs them.

“I wanted the staging to be sober. With its calm atmospheres and the immensity of the Cambodian landscapes, Funan dives into interiority and conveys the paradoxes of the character’s souls. Their tortured spirits contrast with the peaceful and various landscapes. Funan tells the story of a country and a culture that is rich yet starving and barbaric. Pure, magnificent, with large open spaces, torn apart by violence, and the uproar of revolution.” Denis Do, director of Funan

 

“Director Denis Do manages to make such a difficult story feel both personal (it was inspired by the life of his mother) and emotional. Despite some narrative cliches, the painstaking way that the movie documents a very dark period in Cambodian history is a noteworthy achievement, and one that should find interest overseas after winning the top prize at Annecy. […] Funan is a compellingly dark and accurate look at a major 20th century atrocity, showing what it was like to experience it firsthand as a broken family. The extreme emphasis on detail — such as in the image of scattered grains of rice that are meant to feed several people or a scene where we see Sovanh playing in a desecrated temple filled with pigs — helps convey the unbearable reality of the Khmer Rouge's reign, adding another significant layer to a memorial that’s still in the making.” Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter, 15/06/2018

“By embracing hand-drawn animation as a tool for tactful re-creation, Funan director Denis Do provides audiences a unique window into this relatively under-represented 20th-century horror, one that serves as an act of witnessing even as it avoids directly showing the violence on-screen. […] An admirable film, a major artistic achievement that follows the lead of Isao Takahata’s masterful Grave of the Fireflies in using animation to create both the emotional intimacy and necessary distance to confront a historic tragedy that some find unwatchable in live action. It’s also worth pointing out that Do has resisted the generic character designs of most Asia-set animation. By contrast, his cast actually looks Cambodian, boasting realistic eyes and noses, drawn with such care that even the subtlest change of expression conveys emotion. No film can capture the extent of what the Cambodian people went through at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, but Do has honored his mother’s story in this telling — for which he earned top honors at the Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival this past June.” Peter Debruge, Variety, 22/10/2018

+3
+14
Awards
  • Cristal for Best Feature, Festival International d’Annecy, 2018 (France)
  • Audience Award, War On Screen Festival International de Cinéma, 2018 (France)
  • Grand Prize & Audience Award, Animation Is Film Festival, 2018 (USA)
Cast & Credits
Cast 
Bérénice Bejo, Louis Garrel, Céline Ronté, Thierry Jahn, Tom Trouffier, Maxime Baudouin
Screenplay 
Denis Do, Magali Pouzol, Elise Trinh
Sound 
Nicolas Leroy, Nicolas Tran Trong
Set 
Michael Crouzat
Music 
Thibault Kientz Agyeman
Production 
Les Films d'Ici, Bac Cinema, Lunanime
Distribution 
BAC Films Distribution
Animation 
Eléonore Guerra, Pascal Vermeersch, Paul Raymond Williams
Biography

Denis Do is a director born in Paris in 1985. Raised in three different cultures, his Franco-Sino-Cambodian mix has impacted his thought process and work. He has a passion for images and drawing, and graduated from the Gobelins school of images in 2009. His graduation film, Le Ruban (2009), is a love story set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. This short film confirmed his desire to tell personal, human stories through a sleek and realistic approach, using one character’s story to tackle the broader history surrounding them. His first feature film, Funan (2018), a family story set during the reign of the Khmer Rouge and inspired by his own mother’s experiences, follows in this vein.

Filmography
  • 2018 – Funan
  • 2009 – Le Ruban (short)