An Interview with Ella Pugliese (Director)
Being a Director and a Facilitator
Q: Your documentary showed that people need an opportunity to talk about painful memories before they are ready to convey their experiences to the outside world. How did the idea for this film project come about?
EP: I went to Cambodia for the first time in the year 2000, which was two years after the death of Pol Pot. At the time, I was making a documentary about the games that people were playing on the street, but every time I asked about a game and its meaning, the people would tell me stories of the past and Pol Pot. Playing games on the street was something they had not been allowed to do during the Pol Pot regime, and after such a long silence, the people probably felt that they needed to share what had happened before.
Later, in 2008, the German Development Service, which was working with a Cambodian NGO, asked me to join the project to make this documentary. The people in the villages were feeling a need to talk about and communicate their experiences, which is why we made this film. We wanted to make a documentary which could be shown in outdoor screenings to the local people, and we wanted to use this as a means for people to talk about their painful memories of the Khmer Rouge past and to deal with this past.
Q: It was clear that the villagers and your co-director Nou Va were very involved in this film project. What was your approach to making this documentary?
EP: I have a relationship with the country but I myself am not Cambodian, and I preferred to do a project with the people there, so I proposed a participatory project. I thought we should go to a village and talk to the people—to the “direct subjects” of this story—and ask them to make a film together and think about what would be good for the people of Cambodia. It was important that the villagers participated in the film, and what was interesting about this project was that the people we were filming were the ones who decided how to depict their story.
Q: It seemed as if the film took on a life of its own and guided its own way, but did it end up where you had intended that it would?
EP: We went to the village with the idea of initiating and guiding a process, but we didn’t know where it would lead us to, or where we would eventually arrive. So, it was a very open process. We thought maybe the villagers would want to tell their experiences like a fairy tale, or maybe they would want to do drawings and animations, or perhaps they would use theater or dance, which are deeply radicated in the Cambodian tradition. We were not really thinking about the option of reenactment. Normally a director has a kind of authority in direction, but in this case I gave it up and opened up the process to see what would come out of it.
Q: Does this mean you were more of a facilitator than a director?
EP: Well, I think I was something in between a facilitator and a director. When we were filming scenes that the villagers had decided on and created, my role was that of a facilitator, but for the scenes of the interviews, I was more the traditional director, and it was also the directors who edited the film. The people in the village didn’t really show interest in editing, but we wanted to make even the post-production process as open and participative as possible, so we completely post-produced the longer 90-minute version there in Cambodia. We shortened the second version and made some changes especially in the sound design, adding one voice in English, and that is the international version which we screened at this festival.
(Compiled by Nogami Taka)
Interviewers: Nogami Taka, Uno Yukiko / Interpreter: Usui Naoyuki / Translator: Kato Lisa Somers
Photography: Omiya Yoshiyuki / Video: Omiya Yoshiyuki / 2013-10-13