I just watched an unforgettable movie that has touched my heart more deeply than any I have ever seen before. I was not expecting this when I selected this film several days ago and placed it in my Netflix streaming que. It tells a story of human evil and of human triumph, of war and work for peace, of surviving, of a tragic past turned into a powerful tool for healing.
PBS broadcast, July 22, 2003
“Arn Chorn-Pond was only a boy when the brutal Khmer Rouge regime overran Cambodia and turned his country into a ghastly land of “killing fields.” While most of Arn’s family, and 90 percent of the country’s musicians, were killed, Arn was kept alive to play propaganda songs on the flute for his captors. Now, after being adopted and living in the United States for 20 years, Arn goes back to Cambodia in The Flute Player, seeking out surviving “master musicians” and facing the dark shadows of his war-torn past. As the film follows Arn on his journey from Lowell, Massachusetts to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, his life is seen through his work in both communities of Cambodians. An extraordinary story of survival, the film is a testament to one man’s ability to transcend tragedy. An Independent Television Service (ITVS) co-presentation.”
This 60-minute movie does have some graphic pictures of death but can be viewed via YouTube after signing in as an adult viewer.
“When Arn Chorn-Pond transferred to a prep school in western Massachusetts, nobody knew anything about him. They didn’t know that his family was killed, they didn’t know that he once lived in a jungle, and they didn’t know the frustration and anger he felt when he first came to America. After Chorn-Pond spoke on his campus about his life, he opened many people’s eyes, including fellow classmate Jocelyn Glatzer’s.
In fact, almost 20 years later, Glatzer decided to make a movie about Chorn-Pond’s life called The Flute Player.
“I felt like I knew nothing about Cambodia,” Glatzer said. “Personally, his story shows hope and the beautiful things about his culture.”
The one-hour documentary, which aired on PBS in July, weaves two stories together: Chorn-Pond’s survival in Cambodia and his work today.
When Glatzer was making the film, she had young people in mind. As a child, she found it difficult to learn history just through books. She hopes that when young people watch Arn’s story, they will want to learn more about Cambodia.
Glatzer was also inspired by Arn’s story. “Arn inspired me to think about self-expression and art on a whole other level,” she said. “[During the Khmer Rouge time] Cambodian artists were killed for expressing themselves. As an artist, I have to keep going and give other artists the freedom to express themselves.”
Besides PBS, the documentary has been part of several film festivals and has been shown on college campuses throughout the country. Glatzer has received a positive response from the film’s viewers. Many young Cambodians sent her e-mails. Before they saw the film, they knew only tragedy in Cambodia. Now, they know a lot more about their own culture.
Currently, Glatzer is working with Chorn-Pond to bring educational TV to Cambodia. They just finished filming an episode of Sesame Street, and once they complete enough episodes to wrap up a season, the show will air on Cambodian TV.”