- Sundance Film Festival - *Honorable Mention*
- Palm Springs Film Festival - *Best Documentary*
- Aspen Shortfest *Best Documentary*
This multi-award-winning short documentary from Cynthia Wade (GRIT) gives voice to a boy suffering from incurable arsenic poisoning to reflect on detrimental issues of water safety in rural Cambodia.
Over hundreds of thousands of years, naturally occurring arsenic washed down from the Himalayan Mountains and settled deep into the soil of Cambodia and other affected countries. In Cambodia, in the 1990s, as part of an effort to bring clean drinking water to rural populations, well-meaning aid organizations installed deep pump wells. The water from these wells was never tested for arsenic, and as a result, villagers drank and cooked with the contaminated water unknowingly - resulting in chronic, low-level arsenic poisoning, also known as arsenicosis.
Vinh - a fifteen years old boy, has already accepted his destiny – to be sick for the rest of his life with incurable arsenic poisoning. He longs to fall in love with a girl with long, smooth hair. He dreams about going to Phnom Penh, becoming a karaoke star, and winning the affections of adoring fans. But his body is scarred by illness, and he expects the arsenic will soon take his life, like it did the girl who once lived across the road. Vinh spends his days in his remote Cambodian village tending cows and escaping into song with his family’s car battery-powered karaoke machine. An unexpected chance to star in a local karaoke video allows Vinh to question whether he truly knows his destiny.
Chronic exposure to arsenic at low levels has a pronounced impact on human health. It has been linked to a wide range of health effects including cancer of the skin and internal organs, increased incidence of respiratory disease, hearing loss in children, lowered birth weights in babies, impaired skin sensation, keratosis of the hands and feet, and decreased overall immunity, among other symptoms. Those who are at greatest risk to arsenic-related problems are children. The damage caused by arsenic exposure is irreversible.
In her deft and short-subject film, acclaimed documentarist Cynthia Wade (GRIT) uses vivacious cinematic means to amplify her subject's life-affirming yet poignant message and offer us an emblematic case-study for the sacrifice and preserves of impoverished rural populations whose health remain at risk due to hazardous conditions and lack of safe infrastructure.28 Minutes | Cambodian with English subtitles.
Directed by: Cynthia Wade
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