Director’s Statement

Statement from Masahiro Sugano:

I never wanted to make a documentary film. Not this kind. Having focused only on fiction filmmaking and animation, I could not fathom weaving a coherent story out of some unpredictable chain of events based on reality, especially when my subject was living through it as blindly as I filmed him in it.

This reality seemed to be particularly cruel, deceptive, humorous, beautiful and only sometimes generous towards my subject, Kosal Khiev, for nearly his entire 33 years of life. And Kosal’s mood towards the outside world being as unpredictable as the reality itself made this production at times more exciting and painfully frustrating than I could bear. Eventually all curses turned into blessings later on for the story, but little did I know such was the nature of documentary filmmaking.

At one point in the final stage of editing all the feedback felt indifferent and discouraging. Most people agreed that I had to hand the film over to someone else, some “real” editor, to entirely re-work the film. I was happy to comply out of a sense of exhaustion. But it was Kosal who stepped in and vehemently opposed that idea. He wanted me to finish it. He believed in me and he knew this was a project meant to be finished in the way it was started. Though I badly wanted some rescue, I knew Kosal was right. With his encouragement I pushed on through and today I am indebted to his faith.

This film is about Kosal Khiev, the deported Khmer American poet in Cambodia. While many events happened during the course of filming, both personally and on camera, there was always an understanding between Kosal and I; we were going to do this documentary not to promote his talent or to advance my career, but for the bigger purpose that this film would serve, once it gets done right.

Because of the cruel, humorous and generous fate of his, Kosal came to represent many American social issues that most of us would just read about in the newspapers or history books. I had to believe in my gut that if I followed him with clear and open eyes, the story would unfold somehow and its message will make itself evident.

All I hope now is that you watch this film and walk away feeling something you never felt before about some people you never thought you would come to know. It is only through your tears and inspiration that we can begin to make an impact in this world that is cruel but always generous to those who persevere.