Neary Adeline Hay’s film follows her father back to Cambodia and the sites of appalling abuse in a painful struggle to come to terms with atrocious memories
The collective trauma inflicted by the Khmer Rouge regime is so momentous that it seems to exceed whatever medium that tries to retell its stories. At the centre of the horrors is an incomprehensible level of evil that neither words nor visual arts can effectively grasp. And yet, Neary Adeline Hay’s sublime Angkar, which begins in darkness and gently, achingly feels its way around the weight of this historical chapter, manages to arrive at a place of stability, and perhaps even emotional resolution.
The film follows the return of Hay’s father, Khonsaly Hay, to Cambodia after fleeing for France 40 years ago, and captures his confrontations with his former torturers in detention camps. Its concerns, however, move beyond these strangely low-key encounters and instead revolve around the fragility of memory and the act of remembering itself. Considering that almost all of Khonsaly’s family were executed under the Khmer Rouge, it is shocking how some of his tormenters think of their victims’ experiences as better than their own.