Resources on Cambodia: Top Books, Movies, and Music

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The literature of any kind about Cambodia is still limited, mainly because this country has only recently come into international attention. Existing pieces focus on three main aspects when discussing about Cambodia: tourism, history, and a combination of the two in the form of descriptions of local exotic spots.

In fact, the history of this space is so troubled that it irremediably influenced tourism. Today, people travelling to Cambodia learn how to integrate historical values into an exotic setting, whilst enjoying a few superb days experiencing the realities of the country.

Cambodia is rebuilding itself from ashes and few books have come to explain this phenomenon in detail. The difference is so obvious that a Cambodian who left Siem Reap twenty years ago may have real difficulties in recognizing the place, except for the old part of the city.

Movies, on the other hand, make use of landscapes to create the illusion of a distant and intangible place with many dangers, even if the reality is far from such a prospect. Most likely, documentaries are the only ones that discuss the country as is, without altering the truth.
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Books

  • Cambodia Country Guide, ed. Lonely Planet – An extensive guide to the history and customs of the Khmers, where attractions and pragmatic information intermingle.
  • Cambodia: Uncensored, by Alvin Kim – A personal insight into the contemporary realities in Cambodia.
  • Cambodia’s Curse, by Joel Brinkley – A vivid and comprehensive look on the recent history of this country.
  • Cambodia, ed. National Geographic Traveler – A smart guide with plenty of information and good attention to detail.
  • When Broken Glass Floats, by Chanrithy Him – A touching account of the events lived by the author under the Khmer Rouge rule.

Movies

  • The Killing Fields, dir. Roland Joffé – The story of a photographer experiencing tragic incidents in Cambodia, during Pol Pot’s regime.
  • Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia, dir. David Munro – A documentary focused on the social events during the Khmer Rouge rule.
  • Samsara, dir. Ellen Bruno – Another excellent documentary on the same topic.
  • Angkor: Cambodia Express, dir. Lek Kitaparaporn – An action movie, with elements of drama, taking place in contemporary Cambodia.
  • Intrusion: Cambodia, dir. Jun Gallardo – A thriller-action movie which takes place during the Vietnamese-Cambodian war.

Enemies of the People

Music

  • Pavarotti & Friends for Cambodia and Tibet – A musical documentary intended to help enticing actions for poor people in Cambodia who are in nead.
  • The music of Cambodia – Celestial Harmonies – A collection with the most impressive Cambodian musical pieces.

A Cambodian saying states that you enter a forest through its paths and a country through its customs. This is equally true for the Khmers. Books and other references offer but a partial view on the realities in this country. Mainly focused on the most important aspects in their history, such references put in second place the daily life and everything it implies, from extensive fishing in South to pottery in the eastern regions.