As a young girl Seng Channeang (nicknamed Moon) was married off by her parents but she managed to escape at the very wedding day, halfway through the ceremonies. She kept herself alive with all sorts of jobs far from her home village. “I learned to stand my ground by working hard”, she says.
We met Moon four years ago when she was about to get married again, but this time to the love of her life. She met Bunsan at her work, in a filthy clothing workshop in Phnom Penh. She still has trouble breathing because of the poison that she had to work with there.
But she met Bunsan there. He was brought to a Buddhist monastery as a little boy and stayed there for thirteen years. He had to work for the monastery which is how he came to the clothing workshop.
To correct the shame of her flight from her earlier wedding, Moon and Bunsan have to get married according to all traditional Cambodian rituals, in her village. They borrowed money from all their friends to repay the first dowry and organise a great wedding which put an end to the past.
Moon sees how in her country a small elite has the power, while making huge profits with the illegal sale of land, from which they expel the peasants and then poison the land with sugar plantations. Moon wants to remain an independent farmer, she want to continue to grow her own organic rice as she has always dreamed. So she tries to cooperate with other farmers against the large companies.
We have followed Moon for four years and were present when she married Bunsan, the love of her life. We were with her when she was pregnant while working on the rice harvest and we celebrated the first anniversary of her daughter, named Reaksa, “she who unites”.
Antagonist Mong Reththy
Moon’s opponent in the film is His Excellency Mong Reththy, one of the richest men in the country. In the last century, when the murderous regime of Pol Pot drove millions of people to death, all property rights fell to the state. When they were officially recognized again, it was easy for smart entrepreneurs like Mong Reththy to gather the rights over vast estates. Mr Mong Reththy is now a development tycoon who applies modern agricultural techniques in large scale agriculture. His dream is to build a big city based on sound and sustainable ecological principles.
In her search for answers, Moon gathers all her courage and seeks direct advice from Mr Mong Reththy. She asks him about the problems in her village, about their painstaking efforts to export their quality rice. He advises against export: he will buy all rice from small farmers like her to feed his pigs. Moon realizes that she has to find a middle way to survive between the large scale companies and the doomed future of small, individual farmers.
Moon has no formal education – her father, a rice farmer and bicycle repair man, had no money to send her to school. Now she follows evening classes and gathers legal advice through her teacher. This better understanding of the weak legal system in Cambodia helps her to build a cooperative with other farmers in her village.
At the end of the film Moon and Bunsan celebrate the first anniversary of their daughter Reaksa, an important traditional ritual. Monks lighten up the party and sway Reaksa wet with their holy water brushes.
The film is a sequel to Silent Snow, who has won already 25 prices on international film festivals.
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