YIDFF 2007 New Asian Currents
Aki Ra’s Boys
An Interview with Lynn Lee, James Leong (Directors)

Cheerfulness of Children Behind Tragedies

Q: Tell us what led you to meet these children at Aki Ra’s Land Mine Museum. Also could you tell us why you focused on Boreak as the main character?

Lynn Lee (LL): When I was in Cambodia filming another TV documentary, I found Boreak who was ten years old at the time in the Land Mine Museum that I visited in my free time. He had a bright personality, and was dancing a difficult dance despite the fact that he didn’t have one of his arms. I became very interested in him. I chose him because among all the other children at the Museum, he stuck out as being a prankster, bursting with energy. He was easy to spot because he would cause problems, skipping school some days.

Q: Although you were in a war-torn area, you chose to focus on children instead of choosing a more common theme for a documentary film like war.

LL: Yes, everybody knows that it is easy to make a good tragic documentary themed on war. Boreak, although he has lost an arm because of war, acts no different from normal children. He loves soccer, he loves singing, and he has a very energetic personality. Contrary to the situation he is put in, he does not show any signs of despair. I felt a strength in the kids that kept them alive and well even though they were surrounded by tragic war and land mines. When you take a look at the other side of war there are these energetic children. By focusing on them, I tried to convey the war through the eyes of these children. Even in places that are not experiencing war at the moment, like Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, children are always being faced with hardships and pressure. School and exams, among other things, can act as hardships. Boreak and his friends surely did feel the harshness of missing an arm, yet they decided to overcome and live optimistically and energetically. I wanted people to see that through this film.

James Leong (JL): I was inspired to see these children, who have already lost limbs through war, yet they believe in their own lives and give it everything they’ve got to live.

Q: There was that one close-up scene of the people who suddenly became blind because of the land mines . . .

JL: We wanted to show the contrast between the tragic reality of war and the cheerful children by showing images of land mine victims together with the sound effect of gunshots.

Q: I felt a childish charm in Boreak through the contrast of when he was being scolded by his mother, and his time spent innocently playing. Why did you intentionally put in both sides of his life?

JL: He doesn’t frequently go home, so I was not being very intentional about showing those two sides. Although Boreak has lost his arm, he is still able to go to school. He is the happiest person in his family, and other family members have various expectations for him. His mother wants Boreak to study a lot. A child like him with lots of expectations needs to learn to become responsible and become an adult. I could see his underlying thought that he needed to quickly grow up to be an adult, even though he still is a child in every practical sense. That kind of conflict within him makes him very interesting to observe. That is why I put those scenes in.

(Compiled by Sasaki Yoko)

Interviewers: Sasaki Yoko, Konno Ayaka / Interpreter: Saito Shinko / Translator: Paul Mikaelsen
Photography: Takahashi Manami, Kaito Yoshimasa / Video: Takahashi Manami / 2007-10-09