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STORIES THAT INSPIRE

We create documentaries focusing on individual stories and their global impact, while advocating empowerment and sustainability.

Keep On Keeping On

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We are inspired every day by the resilience shown in the stories and everyday lives of the people we met in Cambodia. When busy days here in LA get busier, I try to stop and remember how lucky I am that I can simply walk into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of water from the faucet. It’s moments like those that bring me back to the grace shared with us during filming, and I feel reinvigorated to keep working YEAR 33. We’re so close to the finish line.

Want to help us get there? We’re looking for finishing funds- investments or tax deductible donations. Get in touch with us if you want to make a difference in a beautiful way.

With Love,

Kathryn

kathryn@suenodocfilms.com

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Stay Brave

Posted by on Sep 18, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Brave CollectionThe power of a bracelet.

Right now, as you read this, as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking… and the number rises every year. Many times these victims are young women, lured far from their homes by the promise of steady, high-paying work at respectable organizations. Once they arrive at their destination, however, their dreams of a better future are exchanged for anonymity and fear living as sex slaves or forced laborers. They are degraded, threatened, abused, and feel that they are completely alone.

But they are not alone. There is a growing awareness of human trafficking and consequently the urge to act. One woman who chose to take action in the face of this injustice is jewelry designer and entrepreneur, Jessica Hendricks. While visiting Cambodia, she discovered its incredibly rich, ancient culture and how much of it had been destroyed by war and genocide. There she also learned about the reality of human trafficking and the challenges Cambodia faces to eradicate this widespread problem.

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“I decided to start The Brave Collection to take a stance against human trafficking, while providing job opportunities to artisans who make our bracelets by hand — celebrating and reinterpreting Cambodian culture for a contemporary customer,” Jessica said.

Yes, bracelets. Initially discouraged by the hesitancy of those around her to discuss such a sobering topic as human trafficking, Jessica continued to search for a way to bridge the gap between her world in New York City and the world she experienced in Cambodia. Eventually she came up with the idea of hiring highly skilled Khmer artisans from underprivileged backgrounds to create beautiful and stylish bracelets, with a large portion of the proceeds going towards the fight against human trafficking. Bam. People started talking.

IMG_0616-001Inspired by Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn and Somaly Mam, Jessica’s dedication to the cause has led The Brave Collection to be featured by Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, Half the Sky, and many more. It seems people simply needed a ray of hope and the knowledge that they could take part in the fight. While still a heartbreaking issue, with trailblazers like Jessica Hendricks leading the fight using accessible, creative methods, it is possible to envision an end to human trafficking.

Jessica has huge dreams for the future of The Brave Collection, “We want to ignite a global community of dreamers, freedom-fighters, artists and change-makers, uniting East and West and planting the seeds of change.”

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To this end, Jessica encourages everyone to utilize their personal passion, talent, and network to take a stance in a way that is organic and meaningful to them personally. She shares her own path, saying, “I love fashion and grew up with my mother in the jewelry business, so I am working to make a difference in a way that is exciting for me, through a medium I understand and am passionate about. We all have our strengths and our passions, we need to challenge ourselves to use these talents to tell a deeper story.”

We at Sueño Doc Films honor the efforts and vision of Jessica Hendricks and The Brave Collection. The next time you are searching for a meaningful gift keep them in mind, because each bracelet made is a job opportunity, and with each bracelet that finds a wrist a donation is made to fight human trafficking.

The Brave Collection‘s new fall line is out now! YOU can help support the fight against human tracking by purchasing your very own Brave bracelet. Enter the code “Year33” to receive 10% off your order and Brave will make a $5 donation to YEAR 33’s launch!

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Guest Blog: Madeline Hendricks The Matter of Arts

Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

m5THE MATTER OF ARTS

On the morning of my college graduation, I found myself plagued by the myriad career choices that lay ahead of me. Should I stick around DC and audition for plays and musicals? Move to Los Angeles and try landing a PA job? Not only was I terrified to make the wrong choice for myself, I was also heavy with the guilt that none of my potential career paths would help the world in any meaningful way. No matter how much I told myself that the arts do matter, I kept hearing this nagging voice in the back of my head:

Stop memorizing monologues and start saving hungry children in Africa. I know you have no skills in anything related to Africa, but damnit you are going to lead a generous life! You must throw away your theatre education and go become a doctor and cure AIDS! Sure, the arts are great, but do they really DO anything?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that supports my love for the performing arts. “Do what you love,” my parents say, “and the rest will follow.” But, on the morning of my college graduation, amidst my thoughts of future movies to star in and plays to be written, I felt guilty pursuing my own passion when there were so many others in need. After expressing these worries to a friend of mine, she told me that I was wrong and explained very clearly why: If everyone in the world could follow their own dream, we would all benefit from that positivity and passion. Imagine a society where anyone who wanted to be an artist could be. Wouldn’t that be a fantastic world to live in?

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As I put on my cap and gown later that morning, I realized my friend was right. For those of us lucky enough to pursue a life in the arts, we are damaging our peers and ourselves by following another path out of guilt or self-doubt. Besides, who would want to live in an artless world?

When I learned about the genocide in Cambodia that targeted anyone deemed “threatening,” namely any and all artists, my heart sank. There it was. A world with no art: one that didn’t exist in the safe pages of a classic sci-fi book or the within the silver screen of a haunting film. No, this world was in Southeast Asia. This was real. This happened.

Year 33 will shed light on the artists who have emerged in the post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia. The film will remind us how endlessly essential the arts remain to any society– and what happens when they are forced to disappear. I cannot wait to see this film to remind myself to hush that nagging voice inside my head: to confirm that anyone who dreams to pursue a life in the arts, whether they are from Westchester, New York or Phnom Pen, Cambodia, must follow their passion. Now, as I embark on my next journey of tackling the acting and writing world in Los Angeles, I begin with the assurance that the arts do matter- and that, if we are lucky enough, we will give most to the world if we each do what we love. m2

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Guest Blog: Rob Hanley Off The Beaten Path

Posted by on Aug 9, 2013 in Uncategorized |

We are happy to have Rob Hanley as our first guest blogger! Rob is currently traveling around SE Asia with his girlfriend, Johanna, blogging about his adventures on Dog Chases Car. He is also a proud member of The SELPAK.

RobCambodiacAnyone who has ever visited Cambodia should be familiar with the traditional hand-woven kramas and decorative textiles of the Khmer people. Brightly colored and often ornately detailed, these popular garments can be found in every market stall and handicraft shop throughout the country. For centuries, the Khmer have used them as scarves, bandanas, shoulder sashes, and as slings to carry small children. Some locals even fashion them into makeshift hammocks to relax during the hottest hours of the day. The krama is, without a doubt, the most popular Cambodian souvenir and few travelers leave the country without one in their bag.

Back in early July, my girlfriend and I traveled to Mondulkiri Province in Eastern Cambodia to volunteer with the Elephant Valley Project for a few days. We did not think to book in advance, and upon our arrival in the province’s capital city of Sen Monorom, we learned that the project would not be able to host us until four days later.

I was very disappointed to have to wait in and around Sen Monorom for such a long time. It is a one-horse-town if ever there was one (though it does have many elephants). Much to my surprise, though, we were able to keep ourselves busy every day. We explored the town, hiked to waterfalls, toured a coffee plantation, and took a few breathtaking motorbike trips through the countryside.

RobCambodia1On the last day before we began working with the Elephant Valley Project, we hopped on motorbikes and headed east out of Sen Monorom in search of Dak Dam Village, a remote Cambodian farming village close to the border with Vietnam. The 25 kilometer drive through the rolling green hills and mountains was stunning. Had I not known that we were in Southeast Asia, I would have guessed that we were in Southern Germany. We followed a small sign for Dak Dam and bounced off of the paved highway onto a red dirt road.

After a few kilometers, we found ourselves rolling through the center of the village, dodging cows, chickens, and water buffalo. We parked the bikes under the shade of a tree and took a stroll to say hello to some of the villagers and take some photos.

As we walked past the stilted thatch-roofed houses and animal enclosures, our flip-flops kicked-up the red earth and stained our feet. Courageous children stood up and repeatedly shouted “Hello! Hellooooo!” while their more bashful siblings remained inside, poking their heads out windows and doors. Older men and women tending to herds of cows smiled and nodded as we passed by. The place was frozen in a time that the developed world had forgotten long ago.

Rounding another dusty bend in the road, we noticed an old woman sitting on a bamboo mat in front of a small house. We drew closer and realized that she had a stack of folded kramas next to her and was in the process of weaving another. We approached shyly, like the young Khmer children had approached us earlier that day. Eventually, she looked up, smiled, and waved us over.

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We tried to communicate with her using basic Khmer, English, and embarrassingly emphatic body language, but every attempt ended with mutual shrugging and laughter. She gestured to the kramas that she had already made and placed one in my hands. It was clear that she had finished this one awhile ago, as it had already collected quite a bit of dust. Even in its less-than-perfect condition, though, the krama was beautiful. It was soft to the touch and felt delicate in my hands, but I could tell right away that it was a resilient and sturdy garment.

We watched her work in silence for a moment or two and then crouched down to ask if we could purchase one. I had seen similar kramas in markets all over Cambodia. In Sen Monorom, most people asked for $15. In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, prices went as high as $20 and $30. The old woman requested that we give her $10. In Southeast Asia, I can’t buy a pack of gum without trying to bargain the price, but I was more than happy to pay in this case.

Textile weaving is a centuries-old art form that has survived the brutalities of the Khmer Rouge. It is becoming a more popular (and profitable) practice due to increased demand from both tourists and locals. However, this is leading to mass production and distribution which is extremely hard on traditional weavers.

RobCambodia3What a treat it was to witness the creation of a krama first-hand, and to be able to pay the artist directly for her craft. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to venture off the beaten path that day, and would like to urge future travelers to try and do the same.

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Q&A with Year 33’s Kathryn Lejeune

Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

KatonaTukTuk3I recently visited with Kathryn Lejeune, Director of YEAR 33, who shared some of her experiences during production in Cambodia and revealed some of what’s in store for the future of Sueño and The SELPAK.

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Q: What about Cambodia made you drawn to it so powerfully?

KL: While in Thailand a few years ago, I traded travel stories with a few expats and tourists who had just come from Cambodia. As with most travel stories, the wilder the better, and the ones from Cambodia were some of the most fascinating and, to be honest, completely nuts I had ever heard. They depicted the country as a sort of frontierland with few rules, barely explored wonders, tragedy over breakfast, and epiphanies at sunset. However, underlying each tale was a clear refrain of deep respect, frustration, and longing. These themes seemed unusual to me in the typical traveler story and I think that’s why I just couldn’t get Cambodia out of my mind since then.

During our pre-production research for SDF’s first documentary, Cambodia came up again and I felt like it was where we needed to be. After reading in depth Cambodia’s story and in particular the history of their art scene, I knew I had to go no matter what. Exploring the country for myself made it clear that I would always have a part of myself in Cambodia.

Q: If someone were traveling to Cambodia for their first adventure what three things would you tell them to bring or not bring?

KL: Bring: a smile. Smiles go a long way in Cambodia, so make sure you’re always wearing one!

Bring: extra room in your suitcase. You’re going to want to take some of Cambodia home with you. Make sure to get kramas, a painting or two (or three), a “same same but different” shirt just for fun, handmade ikat textiles, Khmer silver… whatever catches your eye. Like many growing third world countries, their economy is largely tourism based, so buy up but buy responsibly!

Don’t Bring: preconceived notions. Cambodia will surprise you and thrill you, but at the same time it is just another place on earth where people live and love. Just let what happens happen, and don’t try to push ideologies from home onto situations where it has no context.

KatAfterTuolSlengQ: What was the most memorable moment during filming in Cambodia for you?

KL: I have many incredible memories from production of YEAR 33, from watching three generations of Apsara dancers perform in KAE’s beautiful pavillion to walking around the IKTT’s peaceful, yet lively, village. However, one moment that stands out to me occurred during filming at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It was pretty rough: torture beds were still in their dismal rooms and photos of the victims hung on the walls along with splatters of blood. I’d never filmed in such an emotionally and psychologically hostile environment before. The oppressive atmosphere and dwelling on the awfulness humans are capable of was really starting to wear on me as I moved from one stiflingly hot room to the next.  Just as I was starting to lose it, though, I moved to a barred window in hopes of catching a faint breeze. I looked out and saw a busy cafe, a nail salon, a Metfone, and plenty of smiling folks going about their day. At first I was outraged and saddened by what I perceived as shallowness or intentional ignorance about their own history. But then, humbly, I realized that before me, in the guise of daily life, was both a form of resilience and a big middle finger to the atrocities of the past. Terrifying tragedies happen, but we are able to move on and live our life. In fact, it is the only thing we CAN do.

Q: Besides the three main characters in YEAR 33, did you meet anyone else during your trip that inspired and touched you the most?

KL: Morimoto Kikuo of IKTT is a rare man and I felt incredibly connected to him on a deep level. Pretty much every word he said felt like it mirrored what was in my own heart, but the reflection was much larger and clearer than I had ever seen before. He spoke about taking risks, pure art, and how life is like a river… it must always change because you cannot go back. Morimoto is a man whose love has made him brave and I will always treasure the time I was able to spend with him.

I was also inspired by Leigh Morlock and Brendan Burke of Basik 855. These east coast cool kids could have gone the usual route and done the NYC fashion thing. Instead, they have made Phnom Penh their home and are doing something both fashion-forward AND meaningful. It takes guts to make a move like that and I give them mad props.

Q: Beyond the film YEAR 33 what are your goals and vision for The SELPAK ?

KL: We created The SELPAK as a way to organize the growing community of people who want to see the arts thrive around the world, and Cambodia especially. The SELPAK is about having fun while making a difference through campaigns that both raise awareness of the importance of art and directly support Khmer artists. We’ll have a mixture of simple campaigns that are as easy as snapping a pic of your favorite piece of art, or more involved challenges that will get creative juices pumping. All of these activities will lead up to our long term goals, which include setting up a dance school in Phnom Penh, an international art competition, and seeing government policy change in Cambodia for better support of the arts. Together we can make this happen.

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