For Mike Siv, the trip begins innocently enough: “Me and my homies, David and Paul, we’re going to Cambodia. We’ll see the sights, visit family, have some fun.” In Refugee, these three young men, raised on the streets of San Francisco’s tough Tenderloin district, return to Cambodia for the first time since they fled with their families as young children. But after their journey, they will never be the same.
Mike and his mother came to the United States in 1979, during the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. It was a horrific time, with the country still devastated from the Vietnam War and in chaos from the bloody regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. To escape further bloodshed, Mike and his mom escaped, leaving his dad and younger brother behind.
Now enrolled in college, Mike, along with his friends Paul Meas and David Mark, decided to return to Cambodia to meet his long-lost father and brother.
The reunion turns out to be happy, yet strange. For the first time ever, Mike knows what it feels like to call someone “Dad” and to see the smile of recognition on his younger brother’s face. Yet he is haunted by questions from the past. What was the true reason the family was separated? What really happened at the Thai border the day Mike and his mother escaped? Is there a more painful truth underneath the facade?
Mike Siv and his father live on opposite sides of a chasm wrought by emotion and history. In between lies a minefield of political upheaval, military invasion, years of being apart and living in different worlds. In Refugee, a simple reunion becomes a journey of discovery in this film about families, war, separation and ultimately, acceptance.
- Spencer NakasakoProducer