My Cambodia and My Cambodian America
In 1975, a radical new government assumed power in Cambodia and drastically transformed the country. Religion was outlawed, and money was abolished. Mass executions were sanctioned by the state. By the time the regime was toppled four years later, an estimated two million people—about 25 percent of the country’s population—had died from disease, starvation, forced labor, imprisonment, and execution.
In response to this tremendous upheaval, many Cambodians fled their homes for other countries, including the United States. How have Cambodian individuals and communities come to terms with their forced resettlement? What are the social and cultural implications of Cambodia’s turbulent history for Cambodians and Cambodian Americans today, more than a generation after the genocide and mass exodus? These issues are explored through a pair of short documentary films that profile two Cambodian Americans as they remember and try to reconnect with their ancestral homeland.
The first film, My Cambodia, follows a scholar and former refugee as she returns to Cambodia and describes the genocide’s history as well as its profound legacies. The second film, My Cambodian America, highlights a young photographer as he travels around the United States to capture the stories and scenes of various Cambodian-American individuals and communities. Through these two films, students become acquainted with Cambodian and Cambodian-American history and begin to consider some of the complex issues that are raised by that history.
A free accompanying Teacher’s Guide offers suggested lesson plans and provides classroom materials that supplement the information and issues explored in the films: context-setting activities, note-taking handouts, answer keys, discussion questions, and numerous extension activities.
Initial Questions (Prezi)