Whenever I get into an argument with a horrible entity on the internet, the easy thing is to drop a Hitler into the conversation as a verbal slap. This is part of Godwin’s law. Things get nasty from that point forward and the wrong person often gets reported to the website for bullying. What’s interesting is if you blast someone with Pol Pot, you’ll often get a confused reaction. Because somehow too many people have forgotten the nightmare that Pol Pot brought to his fellow Cambodians starting in 1975. In a few years, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge killed nearly 2 million of his citizens either outright or through their radical policies. A quarter of country’s population was dead by the time his government was toppled in 1979. Funan explores what happened to the people when Khmer Rouge took over and turned everything upside down.
Life is fine for Chou, her husband Khuon and their children including the youngest son Sovanh. They live in the city of Phnom Penh and enjoy the urban life. Things are fun for them. But in 1975, the communist Khmer Rouge arrive with their weapons, topple the government and make immediate changes. Pol Pot wants everyone equal so his Khmer Rouge gathers up all the folks living in the city and takes them into the country to work on rice farms. The family gets swept up into what was called “Maha Lout Ploh.” On the long journey, Sovanh and his grandmother become separated and Chou is forbidden from following them. The nightmare gets worse and worse for the family and others swept up in the dictator’s takeover. Even though the people work on farms, the Khmer Rouge aren’t interested in actually feeding them or giving anyone proper medical treatments. Things get bleak as the meager rice rations get smaller and smaller. Khuon does his best to locate his son in this now dangerous land. No matter where he goes, things are bleak. The family sees their only way of survival is to escape into Thailand. But are they really going to reunite and get out of this Hell on Earth?
Funan is emotionally effective by using animation instead of live action to tell the story of what happened when everything changed in Cambodia. We’re allowed to focus on the events and not be drawn merely into the performance. This might be a bit of a shock seeing an atrocity in an animated form, but this is far from a musical film aimed at kids and merchandizing opportunities. Even though the actions depicted in the film are horrific, there’s nothing too graphic on the screen to upset a teenager. The movie does not trivialize the horror what the Khmer Rouge did to Cambodia. The focus is always on the plight. There is no escapist Hollywood fantasy. Funan reminds viewers that genocidal atrocities of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge can’t be forgotten.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The images looks sharp. The audio is French 5.1 DTS-HD MA and an English 5.1. Since this is animation, both versions sound clear. The subtitles are in English and Spanish.
DVD with the movie and the bonus features.
Film Introduction By Denis Do (2:16) has him speak of how the film is based on his mother’s experience when she was separated from her brother.
Storyboards (9:28) matches up the storyboards in certain scenes with the final artwork including the part where the family is broken up on the road.
Gallery includes the character design and concept art that informed the final animation.
Trailers (4:09) includes the American and international trailers.
Interview with Director Denis Do (15:21) has him talk about how it is a fiction based on true events. His family went to visit Cambodia in the mid-90s and the vacation didn’t end well. Their having to flee to Vietnam is part of his emotional connection to this story.
Q&A at Animation Is Film (31:14) has Denis Do and Sébastien Onomo speaking after a screening at a festival in Los Angeles. He speaks of how his mother told him that he needed to finish eating his rice as a child. He questioned it. And she spoke of what happened in Cambodia.
Scream Factory presents Funan. Directed by: Denis Do. Screenplay by: Denis Do, Magali Pouzol & Elise Trinh. Starring: Bérénice Bejo & Louis Garrel. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 87. Released: December 3, 2019.
Tags: Funan, GKIDS, Shout! Factory