Boise State Professor's Cambodian Documentary Heads To Cannes Film Festival

Apr 24, 2014

Protest leader "Mommy" faces off against police.
Credit Phil Atlakson

In Cambodia, a group of women have started a movement to save their homes from destruction. For the past two years, Boise State University Theater Arts Professor Phil Atlakson and his son Garret have been filming their story.

Atlakson is the producer of the short film “Eviction.” His son is the director. It features the ongoing fight in Cambodia between homeowners and government-backed corporations who are demolishing villager’s homes to create new developments.

“What we see is the story of an impoverished neighborhood in Cambodia,” says Atlakson, “where corporations have been given rights to land without any arrangement being made for the people who actually own the property and have lived on that property for years, many generations.”

A little girl watches as homes are demolished for new development.
Credit Phil Atlakson

Atlakson says, at first, men tried to defend their homes, resulting in violent conflicts. That’s when a group of women banded together and created their own protest movement.

“Putting themselves on the front lines, and trusting just the fact that they are mothers, asking for nothing more than a home and a place to raise their children as their only defense really, that that would be more powerful,” says Atlakson.

The Director of "Eviction," Garret Atlakson (left) and his father, Phil, who produced the documentary, interview one of the women fighting for her home.
Credit Phil Atlakson

The film includes the story of one 72-year-old woman who is helping lead the protest movement.  Affectionately known as “Mommy,” she fights for her home, in the middle of violent protests between the government-backed corporations and the women.

“She’s the woman in the community that all the other younger mothers look to as the backbone, when they feel tired or discouraged, she never gives up,” Atlakson says. “She’s the sweetest woman but she is tough as nails, she’s just not going to back down because her cause is her grandchild and she’s not going to say no.”

Atlakson says “Mommy” has been hit by a Taser, beaten, shot, and imprisoned, but she will not give up her fight.

“You see what the women are doing, you see what the monks are doing and you just think 'my God, what do I have to complain about?', it’s a privilege to photograph these women.”

Garret Atlakson is still in Cambodia, filming more footage to include in a full-length feature version of the film. Phil Atlakson says the short version was mainly to get the story out and raise awareness of what’s happening in Cambodia. He’s also raising money to finish the feature-length film.

“Eviction” will be showcased at the France's Cannes Film Festival in May. You can watch the story of Mommy and her protest group here.

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