Documentary film, 12 minutes
Fifteen years after our ground-breaking documentary Monkey Dance, we go back to Lowell, Massachusetts to check in with subjects Linda Sou, Samnang Hor, and Sochenda Uch. Children of Cambodian refugees, these young people grew up with parents traumatized by the Khmer Rouge genocide. Their community – the world's third largest Cambodian city after Phnom Penh and Long Beach – was riven by poverty, gang violence, drug addiction, and teen pregnancy.
The teens in the original film – now in their early 30s – have returned to Lowell after their education and have all become leaders in their community. Linda is Director of Strategy and Innovation at Lowell Community Health Center and shares an office with Sochenda, who is Communications Coordinator and Youth Leadership Programs Coordinator (he and is brother also run a custom apparel company called Cultural Shock). Sochenda is married with two small children and teaches math at Lowell High School. All are making a great impact on teens in Lowell, including the next wave of immigrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
What made the difference for these three outstanding people? How did they avoid the pitfalls that so many of their peers fell into? This film's title gives a hint. Dance – both traditional Cambodian dance as performed by the Angkor Dance Troupe and modern hiphop-inspired moves – enabled them to express themselves, understand their parents' culture, and gain confidence. The strong support of their families, despite everything they'd been through, was also key.
All three subjects reflect on the meaning of family to them, and how they feel the torch passing from their elders to themselves. Stay tuned for the next installment!