Seeing Siem Reap

Cambodian street kids participate in a photography and dance workshop empowering them with creative expression and hope for an education and life off the streets.

A film by S. Smith Patrick

28 minutes © cinesmith 2012


The affects of poverty are among the biggest threats to future generations around the globe. In Cambodia, the majority of the population lives at subsistence level, visibly wounded in the wake of dictator Pol Pot’s not so distant bloody regime, struggling for the next meal and to maintain a place to sleep. At the same time, global tourism is booming for the leisure classes. The quest for adventure and the allure of exotic culture inspires tourists to spend time and money in distant lands, often unaware of the affects of their visit or of the harsh lives of the people who populate the place of their recreation.

Siem Reap is a small urban area rapidly developing with the thriving tourist trade that centers on the nearby ancient Khmer temple complex, Angkor Wat, visited by tens of thousands of tourists each year. Siem Reap is also home to a population of Khmer struggling for survival. For thousands of Khmer children, childhood is not a time of school days and playtime, but a time spent on the streets working to support their families by begging or supporting the demands of the tourist industry.

In October 2005 the Angkor Photography festival was launched in Siem Reap by a group of international photographers. The festival aimed to showcase the works of and create alliances between international photographers, with a specific emphasis on work of the Asian photography community and projects about political and cultural South Asian issues.

The festival organizers sponsored a photography and dance workshop for a group of street kids working in Siem Reap.

Seeing Siem Reap chronicles this group of kids through this transformative time in their lives.

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