Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers #51: Kalyanee Mam Reveals the Courage of Survival in "A River Changes Course"

By Indiewire Staff | Indiewire January 28, 2013 at 5:55PM

In her feature directorial debut, "A River Changes Course," Cambodian filmmaker Kalyanee Mam goes on a journey following the environmental and economical struggles threatening the futures by three individals in her native country. The cinematographer of 2010's Academy Award-winning documentary "Inside Job," Mam's film gives an honest examination of developmental problems facing many Cambodians today, including deforestation, overfishing, and debt. "A River" premiered in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.
0
Kalyanee Mam
Kalyanee Mam

In her feature directorial debut, "A River Changes Course," Cambodian filmmaker Kalyanee Mam goes on a journey following the environmental and economical struggles threatening the futures by three individals in her native country. The cinematographer of 2010's Academy Award-winning documentary "Inside Job," Mam's film gives an honest examination of developmental problems facing many Cambodians today, including deforestation, overfishing, and debt. "A River" premiered in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.

What It's About: Three young Cambodians struggle to overcome the crushing effects of deforestation, overfishing, and debt in this beautiful story of an ancient culture ravaged by globalization.

And So It's Really About: Devastating scars are etched into the red earth as Sav Samourn ponders the future for her family in the deep jungles of Cambodia. Tumultuous waves pound against Sari Math’s boat as he navigates through waters being fished to extinction. The sewing machine taps and hums beneath Khieu Mok’s delicate fingers as she struggles to make money to pay off her family’s mounting debt. Against this backdrop "A River Changes Course" is a cinematically spectacular and sensory journey into the lives of three individuals and their families that inspires the viewer to feel, to question, and to immerse in a world both distinctive and familiar.

What's been your path to filmmaking: I was born in Battambang, Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime. In 1979, my family and I fled to the refugee camps at the Thai-Cambodian border and eventually to the United States. Even to this day my mother recounts stories of our flight. My father walked in front of us to protect us from land mines. We slept on pieces of plastic laid across the wet, jungle floor. And we were constantly evading soldiers following us along the way. These stories and many others inspired me to return to my homeland for the first time in 1998, during the summer of my junior year at Yale. And they continue to inspire me today to make films about atrocities occurring in Cambodia at this very moment. But I was not always a filmmaker. After graduating from UCLA Law School, I worked as a legal consultant in Mozambique and Iraq. In Mozambique, I discovered a passion for photography. In Iraq, I discovered a passion for advocacy on issues at the forefront of our global consciousness. Those two passions fortuitously connected to enable me to direct, produce, and shoot my first documentary short about Iraqi refugees living in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. And also led me to work as Cinematographer, Associate Producer, and Researcher on the Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job. I hope to continue to combine my passion for art, imagery, and advocacy, to tell compelling and universal stories that resonate with us at this very critical time.

"A River Changes Course"
"A River Changes Course"

What was your single biggest challenge in bringing this to the screen: This was not an easy film to make. The physical challenge of filming in scorching hot and humid conditions in the remote, and mountainous jungles of Cambodia and the Tonle Sap River was sometimes almost unbearable. Ratanak and I would stare at each other speechless and dream of cold and icy drinks nowhere to be found so deep in the forests. However, even the toughest times could not compare to the pain of witnessing the suffering of the three families that had become like family to us. We knew that in a few years’ time, Sav Samourn and her family’s lives, previously untouched, would change forever once all the forests around them are cut down. Once the fish populations (some already extinct) begin to seriously dwindle in the Tonle Sap River, Sari, his family, and his entire village must also look for a source of life and livelihood elsewhere, away from the river. It was also challenging to watch Khieu and her family, continue to eke out a living while also coping with overwhelming debt. But the hope of one day sharing their stories with the world always encouraged us and made every challenge we faced an opportunity to tell the most honest and inspiring story we could tell.

What do you want Sundance audiences to take away from this film: If the audience at Sundance can truly relate to the subjects and their stories and discover a personal connection to their own lives, I will be truly happy. I spent two years living with and following the lives of the families. I shared meals with them, experiences with them, and we traded countless jokes and stories. Ultimately, I realized that their struggles within this changing and globalized world are not too different from my own and all of us today. All of us must face the environmental consequences of deforestation and overfishing. And many of us, in this struggling economy, are grappling with college loans, mortgages, and mounting hospital bills. Some of us are even struggling to find work. But what keeps us sane, grounded, and hopeful for our future are our families and communities. Khieu, Sari, and Sav Samourn impressed me most with their strength and conviction to determine their own destiny and future. One of my most treasured clips from the film is at the end when Sav Samourn puts on her hat and gazes into the future with a look of fierceness and determination. The companies may come, the forests may be cut down, but her life and the lives of her children will always endure. It is this tenacity, the same tenacity that ensured the survival of so many families during the Khmer Rouge period, including my own, that gives me hope for Cambodia and the future of our world.

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers, A River Changes Course






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More