Programmed by Rokhaya Diallo & Grace Ly
In the 1970s and 80s, the 13th arrondissement in Paris was home to a large number of Chinese-Khmer refugees, and was shot through with painful memories after Pol Pot’s bloody regime in Cambodia. The neighbourhood’s tower blocks, home to myriad individual stories, form infinite vertical structures that disappear into the sky. Pha, Ta Meng, So Savoeun and Boudha live in the basements or top floors of these towers. Each of them has reconstructed themselves after a long exile, leading everyday lives in phase with the rhythm of the neighbourhood’s collective life. These personal accounts, recorded in their private spaces, are in stark contrast to the appearance of happiness the community displays during its events and celebrations. But what about their dead they couldn’t bury?
The 13th arrondissement in Paris is well-known for its stalls of brightly coloured fruit and amazing restaurants with their beautifully calligraphed signs – but director Jenny Teng, who grew up in the neighbourhood, takes her camera behind the picture-postcard scenes into a darker setting of high-rise tower blocks, shops and warehouses. She records the tales of friends and family, people who fled the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. We don’t often think of these particular Parisians when we look at the Eiffel Tower, but they’re nevertheless part of France’s history and the history of Cambodia… Cambodia, a country bled dry after more than 90 years of French presence followed by 20 years of political instability and military confrontations at the border between neighbouring Vietnam and the US army, almost 5 terrifying years under a bloody regime and, for the exiles with no hope of returning home, a painful reconstruction surrounded by concrete between Choisy and Ivry on the outskirts of Paris.
Rokhaya Diallo & Grace Ly
Authors and presenters of the Kiffe Ta Race podcast