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MY KHMER HEART

SYNOPSIS:
My Khmer Heart documents the life and work of Australian Geraldine Cox, mother to orphan children, in the ever-shifting political landscape of Cambodia in the mid-late 1990s. Her story weaves a path through the complex and radical Cambodian power and social struggles.

Documentaries about people who selflessly work for the benefit of others are often worthy but weakly sentimental. The mere decency of the person/people is enough to justify the time and effort involved in making and watching it. In this invigorating doco (not polished beyond recognition, thank goodness), those flaws are absent, as a self confessed hedonist charts her patchy life and reveals intimacies, errors of judgement, mistakes and weaknesses in the course of doing something for others but driven by her own needs. Some people may criticise Geraldine Cox for pursuing her charitable work with Cambodian orphans for selfish motives: she is using the children as surrogates for the ones she canít have, and for her own feelings of satisfaction. Thatís piffle. Doesnít matter. Besides, she does genuinely care for the children and thatís the crucial issue. The film doesnít whitewash Geraldine or anyone else, although I would have liked another voice talking in more detailed terms about the politics involved. The access given to the film crew provides rare insight into a society that has lived with shattering trauma through its political upheavals. The film documents the pivotal moment when the orphange is finally saved, providing a natural climax. But all that is a backdrop for what is a searing portrait of a single minded yet complex woman who survives on a pension from her days as an employee of Chase Manhattan Bank. Thereís a nice irony.
Andrew L. Urban

One of the most moving documentaries of the year, My Khmer Heart is an astonishing, rich story about a woman's overwhelming passion for children. Geraldine Cox calls herself a milkman's daughter from Australia; the children of Cambodia call her Mum or Big Big Mama in their native tongue. They describe her as 'chubby, quite healthy and wears funny clothes.' But irrespective of branding, or what we call her, there is absolutely no doubt that Cox has a heart large enough to match her generous proportions. This larger than life earth mother with the flaming red hair swept up in a perky twist is as outspoken and controversial as she is passionate; her devotion to the orphaned children she considers are her own is unfaltering. Unquestionably a project of passion for director/producer/writer Janine Hosking, it's a personal story about an extraordinary woman living in a political minefield. Peter Ustinov's narration, albeit brief, adds weight, while Thomas Newman's haunting musical theme of Prince Rupert's Drop (you may recognise it as the main title theme from Oscar and Lucinda) transports us emotionally. Cox's story is sensational Ė from her extreme (and some may find shocking) attempts to fall pregnant to her deal-making with high-flying political Cambodian figures. She is unerringly frank, and doesn't shirk from revealing her achilles heel - the devastating story of her adopted daughter, Lisa Debbie (her Khmer angel), who changed her life forever. The story will break your heart Ė the tears just poured down my cheek. Unbearably moving, this and other stories are knives twisting in our hearts. The scene when Cox meets a mother about to give away her three children is one that I will never forget. But the happiness and joy on the faces of the children, and the genuine love they have for Cox is extraordinary. A wonderful and inspiring story of resilience, courage and love, My Khmer Heart is a tonic for the soul.
Louise Keller

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

MY KHMER HEART (M)
(AUS)

Documentary

GUEST NARRATION: Sir Peter Ustinov

NARRATOR: Geraldine Cox

DIRECTOR: Janine Hosking

PRODUCER: Janine Hosking & Leonie Low

SCRIPT: Janine Hosking

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rod Pollard, Noel Jones, Greg Barbera

EDITOR: David Shmidt

SOUND: Ben Banks, Shane Munro, Alex Garipoli

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: November 15, 2001 (Sydney, Melbourne only)







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