Funan by Denis Do
An animated film for adults, Funan depicts the years of captivity of a Cambodian family in the Khmer Rouge camps. To recreate these atrocities, Denis Do uses saturated imagery.
The power of animated films
Born in 1985 in Paris, Denis Do is of French, Chinese and Cambodian origin. In July 1997 when he was 12, his mother took him to visit his family in Cambodia. During their stay, a coup d’état took place. Denis Do and his family fled the country. The episode deeply marked the film maker, who began to draw and become passionate about the arts. He joined the Gobelins School for Images, where he became aware of the power of cartoons to expose subjects close to his heart.
In 1990, Denis Do directed a short film with five other Ruban students about a young Chinese victim of the Cultural Revolution, and continued to train on a number of successful films including Titeuf (Tootuff) and Zombillenium.
In 2019, he directed Funan on his own, inspired by the stories of his mother, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The story of an oppressive regime
For his first film, Denis Do chronicled the years of Cambodian captivity after the Khmer Rouge seized power on 17 April 1975, forcing many displaced families into exile.
As they enter labour camps, Chou, a young mother, loses her three-year-old son, Sovanh. To survive and hope to find her child, she will have to fall in line to get special treatment for favours and approval.
Propaganda, executions, theft of precious objects, torture… Funan reviews the hell of the Khmer Rouge regime that decimated more than a quarter of the Cambodian population.
A mother's memories
Marked by his mother’s stories, Denis Do wanted to bring these terrible adventures together in Funan. The choice of animation came early on because the film maker didn't want to replace his mother with an actress.
Wanting to maintain a realistic approach to telling his story, he first of all collected numerous photos from those years, drawing inspiration from them for both the sets and his characters.
Help from foreign studios
With his first film, Denis Do won the most prestigious award that can be given to an animated film: the Cristal for Best Feature Film at Annecy.
To produce Funan, the director obtained funding from Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Réunion and also Cambodia, which the director visited on numerous occasions to work on his sets.
Funan by Denis Do has been screened internationally by the Institut français.
The Institut français offers a catalogue of over 2,500 titles, enabling the French cultural network and its partners to screen French films around the world.