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Dance with Cambodia

Posted by on Jul 11, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

DanceWithCambodia282Show your appreciation for Cambodia’s dance movement! They’ve had years of hardships, but are just as beautiful and strong as ever. Let’s celebrate this revival as one.

Send us a short video (less than 20 seconds) of you dancing your heart out, whether showing off your perfect pirouette or shaking your booty like there’s no tomorrow. We’ll compile all your awesome vids into one big love letter to our Khmer dance friends.

Three of our favorite videos will be selected as finalists and each will get a cool gift from Cambodia. Voting on Facebook will determine the grand prize winner who wins a wrap bracelet of their choice from The Brave Collection.

Instagram (Instavid): #theselpak  #year33
Email: subject line: Dance With Cambodia

August 7th midnight PST

This is an official campaign by The SELPAK.
Join the movement, be a part of the ‘PAK. LEARN MORE.

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In the Cool Shade

In the Cool Shade

Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Year 33 | 0 comments

The serene city of Battambang, Cambodia was quickly fading in the rearview mirror of our $8 motorbike rental. Janna and I took turns randomly shouting “left, right, straight!”, reveling in our quest for the apex of authenticity and charm sure to be at the end of an “undiscovered” dirt road. I imagined simple shaded platforms, hammocks overlooking an idyllic lake, delicious food, and cold drinks. Crocodiles

After a brief stop to hold baby crocodiles and watch grown crocs fight over decaying snakes, we set out for the countryside. Narrow roads took us on a hot, dusty journey where busy markets and hotels gave way to homes selling items from their yards and rice paddies reflecting the cloudless sky. I glanced back at Janna and gave the international signal for “let’s get some beer”. She nodded earnestly, but the previously ubiquitous red Angkor signs were nowhere to be seen.

Sometime later, we spotted a small red sign in front of an unkempt shack. Not quite our hoped for hidden gem, but I parked and cheerfully called into the darkness. A mostly naked man emerged slowly tying on a dirty sarong. He eyed us incredulously as we pointed toward the sign and mimed drinking. “Two Angkor beer please,” I said in Khmer, one of the few phrases I knew along with “thank you”, “sorry” and, “hello, how are you.”

“No Angkor,” he huffed, but after rummaging in an old cooler came up with two lukewarm cans of a beer we had never seen before or since. He handed us these in exchange for $1 and stumbled back inside.

IMG_0967We stood in the brutal sun sipping already warming beers. Sweat streamed from every pore while our dream of paradise wilted. Then we heard a call from the home across the street where a few smiling women waved us over.

As we walked towards the small wooden house, an old woman creakily got up from her seat and waddled over to a chair just vacated by a younger woman. I watched the strange game of musical chairs until I realized they were making room for us on a bench. We protested meekly but allowed ourselves to be guided down. It was 20 degrees cooler in the shade and I felt a bit of life seep back into my body.

At first I was wary, conscious that we had just bought something from a neighbor, perhaps a competitor.  Yet as the minutes passed I realized they had offered their home and shade to us for no reason other than kindness. This thoughtfulness toward strangers was unexpected and touching. Our languages were different but a camaraderie quickly developed through smiles and knowing nods.

I had found my diamond in the rough: not in a scenic photo-op to share online, but in a wordless connection in the cool shade of unconditional hospitality.

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April 17, 1975

April 17, 1975

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 in Year 33 | 0 comments

Today is April 17th, the anniversary of the beginning of an end for Cambodia, or “Year 0”. On this day in 1975, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge duped and bullied Phnom Penh’s residents and refugees into leaving their city on the pretext that America would soon bomb the city. They were told it would be a few days before they could return home, perhaps a week at most. Instead, it would be four years for some, and never again for nearly a third of the population who would be dead by then from starvation, easily preventable diseases, and execution.

April 17. CLAUDE JUVENAL / AFP / Getty Images

In an effort to drive out communist fighters, relentless and overwhelming bombing by a secret American offense led to well over 100,000 innocent Cambodian deaths. The massive scale only bolstered support for the Khmer Rouge, enabling them to eventually control Cambodia’s population in brutal work camps.

Artists and intellectuals were targeted the regime, who viewed their knowledge and ideas as threats to their new goal of an  agrarian society. Cultural history was crushed by the deaths of beloved musicians, painters, and writers. The loss of government workers and teachers left very few educated survivors. By 1979, Cambodia’s rich legacy was in ashes, its infrastructure in ruins, and the loss of life estimated at two million.

aIMG_0283.CR2Today we remember those lost during the genocide. We will honor their memories by working to reclaim the beauty and strength still residing in the heart of this resilient country and its people.

Further Reading

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I Can Still Taste It

I Can Still Taste It

Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in Year 33 | 0 comments

Khmer New Year, or Chaul Chnam Thmey, is coming up soon and visions of three day long parties have my thoughts going (quite predictably, as my friends can tell you) to food. I have often been asked, “what is Cambodian food like?” and my first answer is always, “delicious!”

Throughout production, the crew only had a few western meals and quickly developed favorites among the local cuisine: fish amok curry, beef lok lak, and Khmer-style spring rolls. There were many other amazing dishes I’ll always remember*, but these will forever light up our eyes when seen on a menu.

644152_10151126981977596_514854775_nOur schedule was very full and we ended up with only one free day during our shoot in Cambodia to do what we wanted. It was quickly decided that the morning should be dedicated to learning some of the incredible dishes we’d been trying for the past few weeks. I was excited to learn some recipes to bring a little of the amazing country I was learning to love back home with me to share with friends and family.

We went to Nary’s Kitchen in Battambang and were told by an exuberant host named Toot that we were going to learn to make fish amok curry, beef lok lak, and Khmer-style spring rolls! Excited and curious, we followed Toot to the local market where vendors sat with buckets and baskets bursting with the bright colors of fresh produce. There our host hilariously proceeded to carefully name and explain all of the roots, fruits, and vegetables that were actually familiar to westerners like us while ignoring all of the things we couldn’t identify. I asked about some mysterious foliage collected neatly in stacks and was told they were morning glories, although unfortunately not the same kind currently taking over my backyard. After purchasing our ingredients, we walked back to the restaurant for the lesson, which was fun and informative. And the food? Almost overwhelmingly delicious.


If you have yet to try Cambodian food, I urge you to do yourself a favor and make it happen!


Great now I’m hungry,

*pumpkin curry, ansom chek, whole fish in lemongrass, and nom banh chok…..


Recipe for Beef Lok Lak

Simple to make, extremely delicious, and quite healthy.


Main Ingredients

6 oz steak
4 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp chicken stock powder/buillion
1/2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 tsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp oyster sauce
1-2 tsp mild hot chili sauce or sweet chili sauce
1-2 tsp ketchup
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
Serve with thin slices of tomato, cucumber and red onion, a few leaves of lettuce, and slices of lime. Optional: cooked white rice.


1. Slice steak into half inch cubes and put into a bowl.
2. To the bowl, add 2tsp vegetable oil, chicken stock powder, sugar, soy sauce, salt, oyster sauce, chili sauce, ketchup, and a pinch of black pepper powder and then mix it all up.
3. Thinly slice onion and tomato- you only need a few slices of each – and arrange nicely on a plate with the lettuce.
4. Peel and mince garlic, then set aside.
5. Pour 2tsp vegetable oil in pan and heat on high. While the oil is heating, add garlic and stir fry for 15 seconds.
6. Add steak and stir vigorously until it’s done- about 1-2 minutes each side- and then pour over the veggies on the plate.
7. Fry egg and place on top of steak.

Serves 1 and easily multiplied!

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Remembering IKTT Village

Posted by on Mar 27, 2013 in Year 33 | 0 comments

As Janna and I are running around to meetings and finalizing this and that, we can’t help but reminisce on our time during production in Cambodia. Despite the heat and lack of street signs, we miss that beautiful country every day.

Morimoto Kikuo

Morimoto Kikuo

One location that stuck in our hearts is the IKTT Village, just outside of Siem Reap. There, Morimoto Kikuo has created a simple paradise that is self-sustainable and produces incredible, all-natural, Cambodian ikat textiles. The village is bursting with life: kittens, chicks, ducklings, and pantsless human babies run with unguarded joy through the shaded compound. All around activity is humming as people work contentedly at their spinners, tend a fire, improve a road, and play with their children. They glance up at us occasionally in amusement as we gawk over a beautiful ikat tapestry slowly emerging from a clacking loom or while Janna chases ducklings in between recording sound.

At one point during a break in filming, we joined Morimoto on his balcony for a glass of cool water and a chat. A few young women were quietly painting flowers with graceful, even, strokes while Morimoto lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. As we sat silently for a moment listening to the sound of paintbrushes on paper and the weavers’ chaotic rhythms below, I made sure to place the scene firmly in my memory to save for a stormy day. He then leaned forward and in a quiet whispery voice, explained how art is like life, you can never stay in one place or you become stale. But, oh, how we wished to stay there!

You can read more about IKTT on their website. If you’re interested in traditional ikat and sustainable systems, we highly recommend staying at the village for a workshop.

Also we want to say thank you to everyone who has liked our YEAR 33 Facebook page so far! It means a lot to have your support at this early stage. We are so excited for what is to come.

Director, Year 33



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