COMMENTARY: Animated Film ‘Funan’ Portrays Real-Life Cambodian Survival Drama
Funan (currently in limited release) represents GKids’ best shot at an animated Oscar nomination this season. The exquisite 2D feature took both the Annecy and Animation Is Film festivals last year, advancing the potential of animation to reach us with poetry and empathy, with its harrowing story of a family’s struggle to survive the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia from 1975-79. In particular, the fierce courage of a mother (voiced by “The Artist’s” Bérénice Bejo) to rescue her lost four-year-old son and escape to freedom.
For first-time director Denis Do, Funan became a personal journey of discovery about his own family’s connection to Cambodia, prying loose his mother’s secret about escaping from Cambodia to Paris, where he was born and brought up and where he attended the prestigious Gobelins animation school. “I wanted to tell my mother’s story since graduating from animation school in 2009, but I knew I first needed experience working in film and TV and to raise the financing,” he said. “It took seven years to make with the support of my French producer, Sébastien Onomo [as a co-production with artists from Cambodia, France, Luxembourg, and Belgium].”
But first Do had to take a deep dive into Cambodia and his mother’s painful memories of forced exile into an internment camp and torture.
Photo credit: IndieWire