This film was created by Tricia Khun of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Tricia was mentored by Dr. Sothy Eng of the College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources.
From 1975-1979, Cambodia's landscape changed with many artists and educated people killed in a mass genocide under the Khmer Rouge. With their deaths, much of Khmer art, culture, music, dance, food, movies and family connections died as well. Despite the deaths of approximately two million people, five million, however, survived. Today, Cambodia's landscape is rapidly changing once more due to globalization, but still keeps its' traditions alive. It is made up of the traditional older generation and the younger generation (those born after the war).
Interwoven with archival video footage and pictures of Khmer lifestyle and history from the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC CAM) and present-day video footage of Khmer lifestyle taken around Cambodia, this research uses film as a way to help restore family connections and bridge the gap between the older and younger generations in that it provides a space for healing, remembrance, and discussion. Using Cambodia’s national tree, the palm tree, as a main character, the film explores identity about what it really means to be Cambodian in a country where past traditions meet modern reinvention and attempts to be a reminder that no matter which part of the tree one comes from—the roots, trunk, or leaves, we all play an important role in the healing and growth of Khmer society and our shared humanity.
As a child growing up as a mixed Cambodian American where my family rarely talked about the past, I have always felt disconnected from my roots. This has motivated me to attempt to understand and explore my family’s history since I was a junior in high school. Three major questions I have always wanted to ask are: "Who was in my family tree?" "What happened to my family?" and "What does it mean to be Cambodian?” Much of the Cambodian narrative and identity are defined by the genocide which doesn't provide a space for healing, reconnection and reconciliation for the Khmer people. However, this research takes a different approach by using the palm tree as a way to celebrate the beauty of being Cambodian and the subtleties of life in Cambodia.