Q:What does Sueño mean? How did the power team of Kathryn and Janna come into play?
JW: Sueño translates to “dream” in Spanish, but it means quite a bit more to us. I went to school at UC Santa Barbara and lived in a house on Sueño Street packed with other students found through Craigslist or newspaper ads. Those ‘random’ roommates quickly became an incredibly tight yet diverse group. We call ourselves the Sueños; a group of friends that are more like family than anything else . Kathryn’s husband is a Sueño, which is how we met, but really Kathryn has always been a Sueño at heart. We became fast friends and decided to combine our strengths, drive, and desire to make a difference together, thus SueñoDocumentary Films was born.
Q: What about Cambodia made you drawn to it so powerfully?
JW: I have a background working as a Scientific Advisor to clean water initiatives, making Cambodia a place of interest of mine for years due to their clean water issues. Once Kathryn and I decided to work together we began researching various global issues, but kept coming back to Cambodia. During that initial research, I learned the details of the Khmer Rouge. I had always known there was a devastating war, but learning the specifics really disturbed me. This led me to ask, “What is happening there now?” What we found was so incredible and inspiring we knew we had to go document it.
JW: Bring: A GoPro camera! Cambodia is like a storybook land filled with adventures and unique scenes on every corner. You have to be ready to capture each precious moment on the fly; the GOPro is perfect for this.
Bring: An open heart. The Khmer culture is incredibly beautiful; from their cultural arts to how strangers treat one another with such kindness and hospitality. There is a lot to learn from this culture, so make sure you’re ready to have your eyes opened and heart touched.
Don’t Bring: A plane ticket home. You’ll surely want to stay longer than planned, if not stay indefinitely.
Q: What was the most memorable moment during filming in Cambodia for you?
JW: It’s hard to choose! I think the one that I think of first is when Narim, our dancer performed with her mother and grandmother. The fact that we were able to capture three generations of dancers together was incredibly rare! The chances of both of the two older generations surviving the war was extremely low given that 90% of Cambodia’s artists were killed. Em Theay, Cambodia’s most famous surviving Apsara dancer, carefully critiqued Narim in her dance practice. We were not only watching a touching scene between family members, but a culture’s history being passed down so it may survive. I was moved to tears. As if that was not enough, Em Theay sang for us. Her voice is so unique, dripping in wisdom; we were thrilled to witness it. When she finished, she said in Khmer “I’ve only ever sung for the King.” My heart paused as I processed the honor we had just been given. I think about that day quite often.
Q: Besides the three main characters in Year 33, did you meet anyone else during your trip that inspired and touched you the most?
JW: Yes, Kikuo Morimoto, founder of Institute for Khmer Textiles. I could go on about him for ages, but I will keep it to this: Never before have I met a happier or more joyful man. It seems his secret is living completely outside of himself. He’s dedicated his life to his work, constantly pushing to preserve traditional Khmer textiles while keeping the process completely natural and self-sustainable. He provides work with honest pay for his artists and has built a community for them. The artists, comprised of mainly women, are encouraged to bring their children to work even though tending to them throughout the day takes up much of the mother’s time. He explained that “A mother is happiest when she is with her children, and her happiness and love can be seen on the fabric she creates.” Morimoto’s way of thinking was nothing short of refreshing and inspiring. If there were more Morimotos in the world, it would be a far better place.