What happens when a 1.5-generation Cambodian American seeks answers about the Khmer Rouge — the ugly reign of terror under Pol Pot’s brutal regime? Mike Siv, a former documentary subject in Spencer Nakasako’s film REFUGEE, finds himself behind the camera on a journey from California to the Khmer Rouge Trials.
Siv is a trusty narrator as he follows a feisty professor who corrals survivors to travel to Cambodia to testify in the trials. Siv is himself a survivor, having fled Cambodia at age 3.
The silence over the decades — Siv says that his own mother, a survivor, never talks about the past — is broken by the brave Cambodian American survivors. Yet, the true hero of the film is an unlikely one. The documentary takes an unexpected turn when the son of a high-profile convicted war criminal, who oversaw the killings of thousands, joins the Cambodian American refugees on a journey to seek justice.