In an attempt to put the spotlight on some of the country’s most overlooked inhabitants, the Women’s Media Center debuted six documentary films about minority women living in Cambodia on Thursday at the Cambodiana Hotel.
The film “Tomorrow” showed women from several ethnic minorities in Ratanakkiri province going about their daily life—cooking, collecting wood, scaling steep hills with babies strapped to their bosom. It also included many interviews wherein the women complained of having their land grabbed and the lack of public services in their area.
One scene in the film graphically depicted a traditional buffalo sacrifice meant to ward off evil spirits. Villagers were shown encircling a buffalo and hacking at its knees with knives until the animal fell over, at which point they slit its throat.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the film focused disproportionately on the negative aspects of people’s lives in Ratanakkiri and that he found the buffalo sacrifice particularly offensive.
“It is brutal,” he said of the sacrifice.
He said the film was better than doing nothing to give voice to ethnic minorities, but that the documentary needed to be edited and wasn’t suitable for national television in its current state.
“If this documentary is shown to the public, it is like Cambodia is in the dark,” he said. “It seems to show the government ignoring ethnic minority people.”
Or Kim Suor, WMC technical supervisor and writer-director of “Tomorrow,” defended the film, saying it accurately depicted the lives of its subjects who were undergoing drastic changes in their daily lives.
“We showed the real life of those people,” he said. Other films focused on Chinese, Vietnamese and Cham minority women in Cambodia.
Tive Sarayeth, WMC executive director, said she had only recently been informed that the films needed to be approved by the Culture Ministry, and that she had submitted them for approval Wednesday.
“WMC was planning to air the films on six television stations,” Tive Sarayeth said, adding that it was likely that an edited version of each half hour-film would now be aired.
Muong Sokhan, deputy director of the Culture Ministry’s cinema and cultural diffusion department, said his staff received the films Wednesday and would review them to see if they needed to be censored.
“We have to watch it first. Then we know where to edit and cut out some parts,” he said. “Whatever shows about cruel acts we cannot allow to air.”