As part of Honours project i’m currently producing a Documentary on the lives of a group of Burundian refugees. Located in a small regional town several hours south of Perth, they perform in a band known as the Burundi Band & Peace Choir. Today we shot a major component of the film and recorded 12 songs on location.
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Last week I visited Yakushima, a small island three hours south of Kagoshima in Japan. One of the last bastians of truly unspoilt natural wonder, Yakushima is next-level amazing. Home to many ancient trees, including the 7,200 year old cedar, Jomon Sugi. This ancient tree sprouted not long after the Kikai Caldera erupted, that destroyed most of southern Japan. Jomon Sugi then went on to survive the extensive logging that happened during the Edo period.
Yakushima also boasts an amazing selection of natural beachside hot springs or ‘Onsen’, one of which only accessible at low-tide. The island’s forests are mostly UNESCO world heritage protected, I really hope it remains that way.
I was invited to Cambodia by my friend Owen to do sound for a film he was shooting. Having only a few days to pack my bags and fly to Phnom Penh I left Perth in much of a flurry. It’s been a few months since I arrived back home, having time to reflect upon the three weeks I spent there I thought It would now be appropriate to write about it.
Cambodia is a beautiful place with a dark history. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge killed off a quarter of the population in the 1970’s and the country is only just beginning to recover. The film I went there to shoot explores some of the social issues that developed during UN occupation in the 1990’s such as the rise of the sex industry and human trafficking.
The film follows the story of a man whose daughter was forced to work at a Brothel to finance her mothers gambling habit. During the few weeks we spent shooting we visited a number of Guesthouse-brothels and Shady Karaoke joints in both Phnom Penh and provincial Cambodia where young girls had been sold by their parents for income. This phenomenon has become a social norm in Cambodia with such practices occurring in many families across the country. We visited a strip of brothels in provincial Takeo where I was told HIV infection among sex workers had been as high as 30 percent.
Another phenomenon happening in Cambodia is the rise of Acid Throwing. Many people have become victims to acid attacks and obtain horrific facial injuries and scarring stemming from relationship disputes. The problem is so big that there is charity set up to help victims of the attacks.
We spent several days shooting in some of the poorest areas in Takeo where many people had never seen a westerner before. A scene involving a barber who conducted his business in a small roadside shack was a particular highlight. The small wooden structure, opposite a school, attracted a rather large crowd during the filming. Unfortunately the crowd caught the attention of the land owner who demanded we pay him for filming at his tenants business.
During our shoot in Phnom Penh we visited a small bar at a night market. The bar was home to many poor city-folk including one man, an Indian migrant who insisted we include him in the film. When we told him to leave he decided to threaten Owen with death. This person however is a hint into a much more sinister aspect of Cambodia.
There are many homeless migrants trapped in Pnomh Penh who’ve overstayed there visas and don’t have the funds to pay the exorbitant fees associated with leaving the country after staying for an extended period of time. Many of these migrants have fled their home countries (usually after committing a crime) and eventually lose all their money to Gambling and Brothels. We met one (somewhat crazy) English traveler who was hitchhiking in the province whilst waiting for his monthly pension check to come in. I heard one story of a man who managed to flee the UK before his passport was cancelled for tax-fraud and is now in hiding in Phnom Penh.