Return to Cambodia

I hope you all are enjoying the final days of summer and saving some of that much needed warmth for the approaching winter.
I returned to Cambodia this morning, and I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to make this film and know that I will do everything in my power to make it not only something you can be proud to be a part of but something that will move people to create change.
Upon leaving Cambodia in May, the progress of the film has been moving along very well. I have rewritten the script several times, Jose captured some incredible still photos to use for promotional purposes, Jonathan has edited a truly inspirational teaser, and Richard has solidified Aki Ra’s new land mine museum/orphanage into a sustainable organism and gained entrance into the Cinema Verite festival in Paris!
Now for the specifics:
In mid-August, I left Chicago to head on a three week trip to push the film further into post-production. I met with Richard in Bayfield to write a new paper edit for the film’s trailer, to solidify our sponsorship by the Tides Foundation, and to discuss what we still needed from Cambodia. After Bayfield, I headed to Jonathan’s new residence in West Virginia to meet firsthand about future goals and divide tasks. We combined resources to edit a ten minute land mine awareness piece for the Cinema Verite festival featuring footage from Year Zero. I visited Batpack Studios (,
who has graciously pledged their support of the film through dedicated labor and financial assistance. On a subsequent weekend, Jonathan, Andrew (2nd Unit Director of Photography), and I headed to the Washington, DC area to interview Greg Stanton (founder of Genocide Watch and initial motivator for trial in Cambodia). Afterwards, we traveled to New Haven, Connecticut for an interview with world re-known Cambodian scholar Ben Kiernan ( and Kristi Lockhart (Psychology Professor at Yale).
2ndDP andrew and Director JohnFilming W/ Greg Stanton
I returned to Chicago in early September, and just 2 days after my return, we decided I would return to Cambodia. This morning I left for Siem Reap to achieve the following primary goals: 1) pick up and double check all translations for film; 2) look through original film footage shot by the Khmer Rouge (for the first time in history, the ministry of Culture has granted access to a filmmaker to view and possibly use this footage); 3) further develop ECCC ( relationships; and 4) set up pick up shots/characters for 2nd Unit production (if budget allows). There is a laundry list of other reasons but these will likely present themselves in future blog entries.
Thanks very much for tuning in and please check back and spread the word. If anyone would like to sponsor a student at the new land mine museum, make a direct contribution to someone in this film, or help any other Cambodian in need, please let me know, and I would gladly assist assuring your money goes towards the right place/person. Thanks and take care!
-John Severson


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