In 1975 Khmer Rouge forces kidnapped and tortured Chhem Sip, aged 14. He managed to escape, until he reached a refugee camp in Thailand. Eventually he was adopted by an American minister, became a U.S. citizen and turned to activism to help other Cambodian immigrants. Yet, he never felt at peace. However much he assisted other Cambodians who had made to the U.S., he felt he owed even more to those he had left behind.
In 1970 Touj Soeurly became a Khmer-Rouge soldier, rising to the rank of Commander. He is a charismatic leader who trained his men in all the required military activities, including the laying of landmines. In 1989 he stepped on a landmine and lost a leg. He decided to leave the military and do something for former soldiers and civilians who had also become amputees, many of whom end up as beggars in the streets. Soeurly works out of a strong sense that he has miss-spent his life, that the Khmer Rouge vision for Cambodia was the wrong vision, and now he needs to work for a different vision, to compensate for his past.
The result is the village of Veal Thom, formed in 2000. The mission of Veal Thom is simple: to give at least some of the amputees of Cambodia, who are shunned outcasts in their society, a place where they can live and work - that is, can be self-sufficient, productive members of society.
The film alternates between the point of view of Chhem Sip, who fled to the US after years of torture, forced labor, and witnessing the death of multiple family members, and that of former Khmer Rouge Commander Touj Souerly. Each of them is up front about the horrors they suffered, the guilt they feel, the strong drive they have to help bring about change in their country. They tell this to us and they discuss it with each other. The film spends time with a handful of individual villagers: a double-leg amputee who is now a rice farmer, a woman who lost her leg now raising pigs, a man who lost an eye who is now a blacksmith, and others.
Director/Producer: Alison McMahan
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