A River Changes Course

Directed by Kalyanee Mam

In her feature directorial debut, Kalyanee Mam, the cinematographer for the Academy Award–winning documentary Inside Job, explores the damage rapid development has wrought in her native Cambodia on both a human and environmental level.


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  • ★★★★ review by Ken Rudolph on Letterboxd

    Three families living in today's Cambodia face a parlous future, especially their near-grown children. Sari lives in a fishing village on Cambodia's vast central river. He quit school in the 7th grade to help his father fish; but now the fish are running out, and he's sent to work digging ditches for the Chinese. Sav and her family own land and live in the jungle which is gradually disappearing as it is cut down to reclaim land for factories and people. Khieu is a teenage girl whose rice growing agrarian family needs the money that she can earn sewing clothes in Phnom Penh, as draught decimates the rice fields.

    The film is gorgeously shot verité style with no narration at all, just the words and actions of the families. At times it is hard to follow...I wasn't sure which family was which until well into the film. However, it's rare that a film presents such a poignant and complex view of the effects of "progress" as the world and ecology around these simple, working class families changes. Such a simple film on the surface, placid, even vaguely boring in that nothing much happens. Yet, such a profound view of the challenges of modern life in the third world. Remarkable.

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