Even the best children’s movies rarely venture thematically beyond cliché: Childhood is special, girls can be strong, be yourself. Funan, an animated feature currently in limited release, is something different: a heartbreaking tale of a mother’s search for her missing son amidst the horror unleashed by Cambodian Communists in the 1970s.
Funan (an ancient name for southeast Asia) focuses on a loving, relatively well-off family living in the Cambodian capital city, Phnom Penh, who in April 1975 are forced by the Communist revolutionaries of the Khmer Rouge to leave their homes and march into work camps. During the upheaval, a 3-year-old boy, Sovanh, and his grandmother get separated from the rest of the family. The director of the film, Denis Do, born in France but of Cambodian heritage, based the lead character on his mother, who was separated from his brother for four years.