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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock And Roll (2014)

In the 1950s and 1960s, pop music took hold in Cambodia. First, there was the French influences (from Edith Piaf to Johnny Hallyday) but then came the English (Cliff Richard and the Shadows) and, of course, American. It was a fusion of American pop/rock and Afrro-Cuban (think Santana). The music scene thrived and created their own pop stars but when the Khmer Rouge took power, pop music wasn't merely censored, it was systematically dismantled (only "patriotic" songs were allowed) and many of the country's biggest stars were sent to forced labor camps. This fascinating and often moving documentary can't help but also include Southeast Asia's political turmoil (and U.S. involvement) in its influence on the music scene (U.S. soldiers introduced Cambodians to a lot of American rock). What film clearly shows is that Art will survive. You may even destroy the artist but you cannot destroy his Art. Art is influential so it is necessary for a fascist government to suppress or censor it but you can't destroy it. Alas, since so much actual footage of the artists was destroyed, the director John Pirozzi is often forced to use stills, repeated footage, voice overs etc. to recreate the era. Luckily, some of the artists survived to tell their story. Well worth seeking out.

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