John Pirozzi was a camera operator on assignment for a Matt Dillon film in Cambodia when he discovered the treasure that was and that country’s history of rock & roll. It was one of the first things we talked about on March 19, 2015. His documentary on the subject was one of the gems at that year’s CAAM Fest, and would go on to get national attention for its skillful interweaving of art, culture, and politics before, during, and after the Pol Pot regime turned Cambodia into the killing fields.
We went on to talk about finding archival materials, as well as the witnesses who were willing to relive the good and bad times, the repercussions of American foreign policy in the region, matching sound to image, and why nine years of work was worth it for having both the privilege and the responsibility of telling this story. We also talked about the life his work will have beyond the film. With almost 80 people interviewed in four countries and in three languages, Pirozzi’s research is some of the only primary source material for the cultural history of that time, material that will be made available in full thanks to his diligence in recording, translating, and transcribing those interviews. As for the music, that’s available through the film’s website: http://www.dtifcambodia.com/
DON’T THINK I’VE FORGOTTEN is his documentary about the thriving pop and rock music scene that was born in the 1950s with the end of colonial rule, and was all but snuffed out when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge came to power in the 1970s, killing over two million Cambodians in three years. Using stunning archival footage, revealing contemporary interviews, and a wealth of the music that was part of Cambodia’s lifeblood, Pirozzi tells a new story about those turbulent times, and offers a cautionary tale about current events in other parts of the world. He also makes clear why art is so important to a culture as a defining element of it, and why those in power can find it so threatening. PIrozzi’s previous work includes the 2007 film SLEEPWALKING THROUGH MEKONG.