Don’t think I’ve forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll
14th October 2015 8.50pm at BFI Southbank
17th October 2015 12.45pm at Rich Mix
A labour of love for director John Pirozzi, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll has taken ten years to get to the big screen. Telling the tale of mid-20th century Cambodia through its music, what begins as an oversentimental documentary about 1950s and 1960s pop becomes a powerful exploration of the turmoil of Cambodia under communist Khmer Rouge rule, told through the stories of its persecuted artists and musicians.
1950s Cambodia, only recently independent, was led by a king who deeply desired peace and modernisation. He encouraged Cambodian music to grow and take inspiration from foreign sounds, such as Cuban, South American, French, and of course American rock and roll, leading to the emergence of Cambodian superstars such as Sin Sisamouth and Pen Ran. But located so close to Vietnam and its violent war, a policy of peace and neutrality could not hold for long, and throughout the 1970s Cambodia would be plunged into civil war and face a brutal communist regime. Here, interviews and archive footage are entwined to create a true picture of the devastation Cambodia and its people suffered, and the millions of citizens who never lived to see peace restored.
There is a slightly self-indulgent feel to Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll, not least for its running time, which is easily 20 minutes too long. For those unfamiliar with Cambodia’s musical history, it is a strain to follow and remember the names and events that are thrown out at the audience in such quick succession. It makes for a challenging first half but manages to redeem itself as it narrates the larger picture of Cambodia during its times of war and political unrest. Pirozzi has certainly done well in gathering such a high number of interviewees to comment, and once the film becomes easier to follow, their comments are relevant, compelling and often emotional.
The documentary is neatly made, featuring countless relevant archive clips to illustrate the words, and often songs, translated on screen. The use of music to bring the story of Cambodia’s rise, fall and recovery to life is commendable, as it puts the focus back on the individual people, so often marginalised in grand tales of war and destruction. It is interesting although certainly not easy viewing, but it tells the story of a country and its people, that deserves to be remembered.
Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll does not yet have a UK release date.
Watch the trailer for Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll here: