Regenerative Remembering: Reconciliation and Recuperation in Transpacific Cambodian Documentary


This essay examines examples of transpacific Cambodian cultural memory in The Roots Remain (2015) and Daze of Justice (2016) that approach the afterlife of the Cambodian Genocide with mutual affection, commemoration, and creative adaptation. The stakes of memory in these two documentaries are different than in the Cambodian documentary films of Rithy Panh (S21, The Missing Picture) or Thet Sambath (Enemies of the People) that bear witness to trauma in order to resist forgetting through the testimony of victims and perpetrators. These films also differ from Asian American documentaries about 1.5 generation SE Asian refugees resettling in North America such as AKA Don Bonus (Spencer Nakasako/Sokly Ny, 1995), Kelly Loves Tony (Nakasako, 1998), or returnee documentaries about subjects uncovering family memory in order to understand and reshape their own identifications as seen in Refugee (Nakasako, 2003). Both Daze of Justice and The Roots Remain are not fact-finding missions like their predecessors in New Cambodian Cinema and Asian American film and media. Through a process of reconciling and recuperating collective memory that I describe as regenerative remembering, the Cambodian Canadian and Cambodian American subjects of these films work to restore communal relations severed by generational difference, transpacific migration, and silence.

This article “Regenerative Remembering: Reconciliation and Recuperation in Transpacific Cambodian Documentary” originally appeared in Canadian Literature: 246 Refugee Worldmaking: Canada and the Afterlives of the Vietnam War (2021): 61-84.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.