By Dante Scott
“Before there was Muay Thai, there was Bokator”
The trailer for the new film about Khmer Bokator has just been released and is available for free on youtube.
The ancient Cambodians didn’t leave many written records to tell us how they lived. Fortunately the history was somewhat preserved in the stone carvings on the walls of Angkor Wat and in the arts, handed down from generation to generation.
Grand Master San Kim Saen is the man credited with surviving the Khmer Rouge genocide, and then returning to Cambodia to revive the dying Khmer Martial Art of Bokator. Today, he works closely with writers and film makers in an effort to document his country’s art and share it with the world.
Film producer, Tim Pek, of Transparent Pictures, whose family endured the hardship of the Pol Pot Regime, was a child refugee to Australia. Now, as an adult, he has returned to his home country to make films, giving a voice to a people in a desperate need to tell their story.
The release date of the Bokator film was delayed because Tim was working on another Khmer film, called “The Red Sense.” Shot in Australia, the story revolves around a young woman who discovers that the Khmer Rouge soldier who killed her father, is alive and well in Australia. She is torn between wanting to take revenge or if in forgiving her father’s executioner, she could bring healing to herself and her people.
Both films show the deep cultural and religious roots of the Khmer society. Bokator is about martial art, but it tells so much more.
The first half of the Bokator film is a documentary, telling the origin and nature of the martial art. The second half is a mini-film, starring martial arts and adventure writer Antonio Graceffo, called “Brooklyn Bokator.”
Always the baddie in Asian action cinema, Antonio plays a boxer from Brooklyn, with a bad attitude and a fat belly who gets beat up by an old man. Seeking revenge, he returns to boxing trainer, played by his real-life coach Paddy Carson, asking his coach to get him in shape so he can beat up the old man.
“If an old man beats you, then you must not fight him, you must learn from him.” Says Paddy.
“As always, I was honored to play in a Khmer movie. I am so grateful for all of the email and support that has come to me from Khmer people around the globe.” Says Graceffo, who receives countless emails, daily. “The actual acting was pretty funny. I play a big out of shape boxer from Brooklyn. It wasn’t much of a stretch. The story is in a lot of ways, based on my own experience of coming to Cambodia to train. For example, in the beginning of the film, my character doesn’t speak Khmer. And he gets a little sick when his training brothers ask him to eat spiders. By the end, he gets used to all of that and he learns to respect the spirit of Angkorian warrior.”