Death and Rebirth of Cambodia

29 minutes, 16mm color

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SAMSARA: (Sanskrit) Perpetual repetition of birth and death from the past through the present to the future, through six illusory realms: Hell, Hungry Spirits, Animals, Fighting Spirits, Man and Heaven.

Samsara documents the struggle of the Cambodian people to rebuild a shattered society in a climate of war and with limited resources. Ancient prophecy Buddhist teachings, and folklore provide a context for understanding the Cambodian tragedy, bringing a humanistic perspective to a country in deep political turmoil.

Samsara moves at a deliberate, reflective and sometimes dreamlike pace. Meditative voices intermingle descriptions of the mundane realities of daily life in war-torn Cambodia with the enduring spiritual and philosophical beliefs of the Khmer people. The music and stunning photography enhance the narrative and evoke an awesome respect for these people who persevere — though they have been tested to the limits of human endurance.


Gold Apple,
Best of Northern California

National Educational Film Festival

Blue Ribbon Award,
American Film Festival

John Grierson Award

Edward R. Murrow Award

Special Jury Award
Sundance Film Festival

Student Academy Award
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science

Gold Special Jury Award
Houston International
Film Festival

Asahi Shinbu Award
Hiroshima International Film Festival

Best Cinematography,
Best Documentary

Focus Awards


"Samsara invites the viewers to stand with the Cambodian people as they strive to understand their past—in their religious and philosophical way—and rebuild—on their own terms. Samsara prepares the audience to analyze the political forces that shape Cambodia by forcing them to look at death and rebirth through Cambodian eyes."
—Third World Resources

"A brilliant work...a straightforward film about universal values and the human condition."
— Bob DeVecchi
International Rescue Committee

"A heartbreaking, poetic documentary which explores the ravages of the murderous Pol Pot regime and the shadows that haunt each and every Cambodian living today."
— Judy StoneSan Francisco Chronicle

"An excellent work, with great sensitivity and visual immediacy. Samsara gives an excellent sense of urban and rural life and the manifold problems of a country recovering from two decades of dislocation and radical transformation."
— May EbiharaCity University of New York

"An outstanding work. Personalizing the fate of the Cambodians from the destructive Pol Pot regime, this is an evocative presentation of a beleaguered people. Artful cinematography melds with effective personal statements in relating the suffering, survival and reconstruction of a decimated society.
— Nancy McCray BOOKLIST

"SAMSARA is not a political document. It is a poignant record, a deeply affecting and effective human document about the people of Cambodia. There is no aim to shock, but a quiet dignity to the presentation. Samara is a natural for Asian studies, ethnologists, students in comparative religion, as well as social science classes from high school through college. This film should be seen.
— Sightlines Magazine