The Flute Player explores the aftermath of war and the deep cultural wounds left by the Khmer Rouge. While imprisoned in a labor camp, Cambodian genocide survivor Arn Chorn-Pond participated in the execution of others in order to survive, and he played propaganda songs on his flute for his captors’ entertainment. The Flute Player follows Arn as he brings Cambodia’s remaining Master Musicians back to their craft.
With characteristic styles specific to weddings, funerals, worship, dance, theatre, and even boxing, Cambodian classical music has been woven into the fabric of Cambodian life over many centuries. During the reign of the Khmer Rouge (1975-79), ninety percent of the country’s musicians, dancers, teachers and instrument makers were killed or made to disappear, and most written records and documents were destroyed.
This attack on the artistic community was also a devastating attack on the history of music, as Cambodian music is learned, taught, and performed entirely from memory. The musicians and artisans lost were the repositories of their music’s history. Traditionally, Cambodian music was passed from master to pupil, and generation to generation, often in a family setting. No composition ever bore the name of a composer and no two compositions were ever identical.
Airing this Tuesday (July 12, 2011 at 10 PM) on many PBS stations, Enemies of the People takes POV viewers back to Cambodia, this time to present shocking, never before seen or heard testimony from the men and women of the Khmer Rouge responsible for the Killing Fields of Cambodia. Check your local listings.