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New Year Baby

New Year Baby

By Patrick Samuel • December 30th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Broken English Productions

Original airdate: November 2008
Running time: 80 minutes

Director: Socheata Poeuv

New Year Baby

Genocide is a word that shouldn’t be in any dictionary, and yet it is. It’s a word that used to describe the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of any ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. Throughout human history we’ve seen evidence of it occurring from time to time. Whether it’s the indigenous population of the Americas, Australian Aborigines, the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide or the Srebrenica Genocide we’re referring to, the question remains the same; what gives us the right as a species to inflict such horrors on our brothers and sisters?

It seems like there’s no limit to the cruelty we’re willing to unleash on ourselves and the other life forms we share this once beautiful planet with, and when we look at the death tolls of the genocides, of the men, women and children who’ve been slaughtered, there’s only thing to ask… “Why?”

The Cambodian Genocide can be traced back to the period between 1975 and 1979 and in this short span of time it’s believe that 1.7 Million people were killed under Pol Pot’s leadership and the Khmer Rouge (the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, which was an offshoot of the Vietnam People’s Army from North Vietnam). Political and civil rights were abolished. They forced the population into labour camps, closing schools, hospitals, bank and factories, confiscating private property. Their idea was to make everyone work as labourers in one huge federation of collective farms with insistence on absolute self-sufficiency, which led to the death of thousands from treatable diseases such as malaria due to the lack of medicine. Those who opposed the Khmer Rouge were eliminated, and that went for anyone who was presumed to be an intellectual or wore glasses.

New Year Baby

New Year Baby is a documentary film by Socheata Poeuv. She was born, on New Year’s Day, in a refugee camp on the border of Cambodia after her parents had fled the Cambodian genocide. They immigrated to the United States when she was 2 years old, but clearly the events that took place in her birth country dwells heavily on her mind. The film documents her return to Cambodia for the first time since she left as a toddler. Along with her brother they meet relatives they never knew they had and Socheata tells us how she first learned about what her family suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

“One Christmas Day, my parents called a family meeting. They sat down my brother, two older sisters, and me – to reveal secrets after 25 years. My mother told us that my two sisters aren’t actually my sisters. They are the children of my mother’s sister, orphaned when their parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge. We learned my older brother isn’t actually my full brother. He is my half-brother – the surviving child from her first family. My mother’s first husband and daughter died in the genocide. This was the first I’d heard of them. It was the first for my brother too. In that room of shocked and tearful children, my father got up and in his character, locked himself in the bathroom.”

The film is beautifully made; touching and thoughtful as truths are revealed to Socheata and her brother, and to us as viewers. She gives us a glimpse into the tragedies and shame her family, and many families like hers, have had to endure for decades since the Khmer Rouge. New Year BabyThrough this something else emerges too; we see her family gradually becoming more open with their feelings as Socheata shows us how they survived the Khmer Rouge regime and came to be Americans.

“When we immigrated to America, my parents instilled in us all the values the Khmer Rouge tried to destroy, including the value of education and family. My father became a JC Penny janitor. My mother worked the line at an electronics manufacturing plant. In following years all three of their daughters earned college degrees. When I asked my father about the worst he faced during those years in the labor camps, he told me it was that the Khmer Rouge controlled his speech and even his thoughts.”

In making New Year Baby Socheata gives her father, and so many others, a voice and an opportunity to face this horrific part of their past and move past it with the grace and humility. It effectively shatters all what the Khmer Rouge tried to instill with such deadly force. Together with its animated sequences, used to describe memories of her family as well as Socheata’s nightmares of what the Khmer Rouge members looked like, we see a journey that’s started decades ago with one generation and continuing with another. Its message isn’t just one for Cambodians though, it’s universal. We can all take something from it about who we are and where we come from, and from that maybe we can offer each other something we’ve been withholding for so long as a species – our humanity.

New Year Baby

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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