In Monologue, the only sound – the artist’s voice – is directed toward his sister whom he has never met. Killed during the ‘cultural’ cleansing of the Khmer Rouge (1975–79), she rests somewhere beneath a small measured plot of land alongside his grandmother and five thousand Cambodians, marked by two Pum Sen mango trees. As he visited their gravesite, the monologue started shifting between experiences of his family during the Pol Pot* genocide to his almost trancelike ranting about the wounds that it left behind.
Piercing together personal narratives and historical records, Rattana’s film is a tribute to the victims of a political catastrophe. His sister’s grave resembles thousands of others across the country: unmarked, fertile agricultural land. As Cambodia is gearing toward development after the Khmer Rouge regime, the remnants of the victims become but a faint echo of the past, slowly disappearing without any documentation. The towering mango trees symbolize post-genocide Cambodia, which slowly gain their nutrients from the blood-soaked soil of massacre sites and grow their foliage to cover a dark patch of Cambodian history.
Monologue is Rattana’s act of witness and subversive remembrance against the corrosive tide of national development and human forgetfulness. The film invites the audience to join a conversation about the needs for historical documentation and collective healing of a post-traumatic community.
*Pol Pot (1925 – 1998), born Saloth Sar, was the leader of the Khmer Rouge – the Communist party of Cambodia. Under his totalitarian dictatorship, his government forced urban dwellers to work in collective farms and labor projects in the countryside. The combined effects of executions, strenuous working conditions, malnutrition, and poor medical care caused the deaths of approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population during his short 4 years of premiership.
Co-Production: Jeu de Paume and CAPC Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux
Cinematography: Vandy Rattana
Camera: Yin Touchmony
Image post-production: Vandy Rattana
Coordination of post-production: Vandy Rattana
Vandy Rattana (b. 1980, Phnom Penh, Cambodia) began his photography practice in 2005 concerned with the lack of physical documentation accounting for the stories, traits, and monuments unique to his culture. His serial work employed a range of analog cameras and formats, straddling the line between strict photojournalism and artistic practice. Rattana recently became interested in filmmaking as a method of historical documentation.
Social Science and Collective Memory
Friday, 4 November, 2016