Huat is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime. A regime where over two million lives were lost. He is also a father of four, and works at a box factory, a job which he has been doing for almost 40 years. Working the evening shift, Huat would leave for work just as his son, Isaiah would come home from school. This meant that they didn’t see each other much. As the two grew older, they grew a part.
Now at the age of 25, Isaiah has decided to make a film about his father, in the hope that it will help bring them together and learn more about each other. Isaiah meets with his father at their family home in South Auckland, New Zealand. They begin to sift through boxes of old photos and letters. This reignites memories for Huat and he begins to let his guard down, sharing details of his past with Isaiah for the first time.
Isaiah uncovers a photo of an old woman. Huat tells Isaiah that it’s Jou Ma. Huat’s grandma. A woman who played a pivotal part in his life. He looks at the photo with a warmth. Jou Ma looked after Huat more than his own mother.
Huat recounts how difficult it was to live in Cambodia during the Civil War. He left home at the age of 14 to get a job to support his family. Sacrificing an education, Jou Ma supported Huat’s decision and accompanied him to Pailin, a countryside province close to the border of Thailand.
Huat convinced his grandma to get a job in Thailand, leaving him alone. Things then took a turn for the worst. Huat describes the gruelling moment the Khmer Rouge took over and how he had to make a decision. One that would change his life.
Through animation, Isaiah relays his father’s story back to him. They work together to visualise what happened to Huat in his past, and the implications it has on their relationship now. Isaiah learns that his father has had to make sacrifices, and by coming to New Zealand as a refugee he has had to rebuild his life. Although fortunate that his family survived the Khmer Rouge, Huat’s main priority in life has always been to give his family a “better. Stronger” life.
Hong Huat Tour