From Cambodian rice fields to the big top

Documentary records five-year quest to join leading international circus.

In late October, “Cirque du Cambodia,” a feature-length documentary about the lifelong mission of two Cambodian circus performers to join Canada’s world-famous Cirque du Soleil, premiered at the 23rd United Nations Association Film Festival in California.

The film was part of the festival’s regular program of online screenings and its special program presented with the Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, California. Most of the school’s students hail from minority neighborhoods and have aspirations similar to Sopha Nem and Dina Sok, the movie’s two protagonists.

“One day at school [in Cambodia] they showed us a Cirque du Soleil video. “I was, like, ‘WTF’! All my hairs stood on end. What kind of circus is this? How can I be part of it? I didn’t know if I could make it because I am in Cambodia and I didn’t even know where the circus is,” Sopha Nem says in one of the documentary’s most memorable excerpts.

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