War was made real to me at the age of 10 when I stared up at a wedding photo that hung in the hallway of my grandparents’ apartment and asked, “Who are these people, Grandma? Where are they?”
“That’s my family, from Russia,” she said. She pointed out where she sat, cross-legged on the grass next to her sister; they wore matching dresses and identical braids.
“Me, my sister, and my mother, we are the only ones who survived the Holocaust,” she said. “We were here in America. Everyone else you see — they were killed.” I counted 46 people in the picture, many of them children, and then I cried.
In the future, when I broached the topic with my grandmother, she told me, simply, “I don’t like to talk about those things — the past is the past.”
As I grew older, I realized that those experiences that are most painful, shameful, and confusing to us are usually the most difficult to talk about. Most people keep their pain inside, tucked away in a crevasse of the heart.
In school I learned about World War II and the Holocaust primarily through history books, and there was always an unemotional distance with the numbers, the names, the places — the “facts.” I truly don’t know if I would have cared about that piece of history if I had not known that so much of my own family had died during that time — if that picture had not hung in my grandparents’ hallway.
Similarly, I had little curiosity about the Vietnam War, the American “side-show” in Cambodia, and the Khmer Rouge genocide, because I didn’t feel a relationship to the information. All of that changed when I was in high school and a new student named Arn Chorn-Pond spoke to the school about his personal experiences during the genocide in Cambodia.
When I heard what Arn Chorn-Pond said, I was truly shocked and amazed by him. Here was a young guy who had experienced the very worst of human tragedy — the loss of his family, his culture, his home, and his innocence — and he wanted to talk about it. I knew I could learn a lot from him.
In the past 17 years since I first met Arn, and through the process of making The Flute Player, I have learned so much about Cambodia — the glory of its past and the unfathomable brutality of its recent history. I have come to see the long term and very human ramifications of war. And I have seen how expression — though music, art, words — has a transcendent power for healing.
What societal circumstances create environments of hate? What would I have done if I were Arn? How can someone wake up in the morning after experiencing such tragedy, let alone translate their pain into community building and activism? I am so pleased that Arn allowed me to tell his story so that I could grapple with these important questions. And I am grateful that Arn has the courage to share both his pain and his hope.
Jocelyn S. Glatzer, Producer
Jocelyn Glatzer has directed, produced and edited documentary films for the past 20 years. She produced My Country, My Country, a 2007 Oscar-nominated cinema verite film about the first democratic elections in Iraq after the U.S. occupation; and she directed The Flute Player, about a survivor of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide, which had its national broadcast premiere on P.O.V. and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Arts and Cultural Programming.
After graduating from Hampshire College, she started working at Maysles Films and on dance programs for PBS's Great Performances series. Funded by the Ford Foundation, she was the outreach and education coordinator for Macky Alston's Family Name in the mid-90s. She then focused on projects about individuals whose life experiences told larger socio-political stories of our time. Currently, Glatzer is consulting on Match+, an HIV love story set in Chennai, India. She also is producing the ITVS-funded Sun Kissed, a feature-length documentary that follows the journey of a Navajo family with rare genetic disorder that makes exposure to sunlight fatal.
Her films have screened at the Berlin Film Festival, New Directors/ New Films, SxSW, The Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and Full Frame, and have been broadcast around the world. She has garnered support from The Sundance Documentary Fund, ITVS, P.O.V., the LEF Foundation, and the Roy W. Dean Foundation, among others.
Glatzer has served on a host of boards and juries, including the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund, founded by Richard Linklater; and Cambodian Living Arts, Arn Chorn Pond's project that supports master musicians and their students throughout Cambodia. In 2008 she received an achievement award from New England Women in Film.
Christine Courtney, Producer
Christine Courtney recently collaborated with acclaimed filmmaker Doug Block on his feature length documentary Home Page, which premiered on HBO in the wake of rave reviews at the 1999 Sundance and Rotterdam film festivals. She also co-created and produced Behind the Scenes, a series of one-hour shows about independent filmmakers for Chinese television. In 1996, the program was rated one of the top five television shows in the Chinese mainland. Before working in film, Chris was a journalist for the Los Angeles Times in Hong Kong. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics.