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‘Brother Number One’: heading slowly towards release if not catharsis

The Pan Pacific Films team will return to Phnom Penh for the sentencing of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch (pronounced Doik), the man responsible for the torture and murder of Kerry Hamill, oldest brother of Olympian rower Rob in 1978, during the Khmer Rouge’s rule of Cambodia.

The date for the sentencing hasn’t been set, but is likely to take place in January. Earlier this year the production team accompanied Rob Hamill to Phnom Penh for Duch’s trial, at which Mr. Hamill addressed the court on behalf of his brother and the family. Former New Zealand governor-general Dame Silvia Cartwright was one of the five judges hearing the case.

The Annie Goldson-directed project has attracted funding from NZ On Air, which has put in $170,000. It was pitched at DOCNZ early this year and in April at HotDocs, where it attracted the interest of ZDF Franco-German channel Arte.

Pat Ferns, facilitator at DOCNZ 09 and in-demand speaker on the international festival and conference circuit, has been working in an unofficial capacity for the production, promoting it wherever he goes.

After meeting Goldson and producer James Bellamy at DOCNZ, multi-award winning cinematographer Peter Gilbert joined the production as DoP for shoots in Cambodia, the US and UK. Peter is a Chicago-based cinematographer and producer of over 20 documentaries, including the Oscar-nominated Sundance winner Hoop Dreams (1994).

Recently, the project has been granted conditional Film Commission funding, so the team is busy cutting a promotional piece as part of the package to attract investors to the project. “The footage Peter shot in Cambodia looks fantastic,” James said.

The return trip to Cambodia early next year will mark the end of principal photography. Other than the sentencing, the team will conduct interviews with a number of Khmer Rouge figures and, possibly, with Kaing Guek Eav.

Although Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime ruled Cambodia for only four years, over 30 years ago, Brother Number One producer James Bellamy said Pol Pot’s legacy remains a massive scar on the country as well as foreigners like Rob Hamill, who lost family members there. At the prison at which Kerry Hamill was murdered, 17,000 people were killed during the Khmer Rouge’s time in office.

“It’s an international story,” said James. “I’m surprised how few Westerners know about Pol Pot. On my visits to Cambodia, over 90% of the people I’ve met lost at least one family member during that time [of the Khmer Rouge regime].”

For an in-depth description of the documentary’s progress, visit the Brother Number One blog.

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