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New Orleans Film Society

Small Voices: The Stories of Cambodia's Children

Originally screened October 15, 2008


Heather E. Connell
Heather E. Connell
Heather E. Connell


Small Voices is the story of desperately poor children in Cambodia and one school that tries to give hope and opportunity to as many of them as possible. They are the first generation born to the survivors of the Khmer Rouge. Many must beg in the streets or pick trash at the garbage dumps to earn a daily mouthful of rice. Most remain uneducated because teachers demand money, and the children do not have it. ’When I see dead babies, I bury them’ – such is a day in the life of 13 year old garbage picker Nghan. With the farming lands in the countryside decimated and little opportunity in the cities, abandoned, destitute children are struggling to support themselves. On the streets of the capital city of Phnom Penh, 12,000 children live, beg and work; believing themselves destined to be poor, they reveal their day-to-day heartbreak, dangers and hopes through personal stories of survival. Desperate to be educated but lacking the resources to do it on their own they are the voice of a country struggling to rebuild itself. Charam, 12, a beggar who supports his mother and little sister while they live on the corner of a sidewalk. Leakhena, 13, abandoned by her parents at a pagoda temple when they could no longer feed her. Meng Ly, a boy from the Kandal farming provinces whose family cannot grow enough crops because they lack the right equipment. Layseng, a 12 year old girl and Hov Nhagn, a 13 year old boy, who live at the city dump, working 12 hour shifts picking through garbage looking for enough things to recycle. Despite the obstacles, all these children are determined to chase their dreams and change the course of their lives forever.