Pressured into conforming to heterosexual expectations, LGBT women seek refuge by going to work in Cambodia’s garment factories.
Directed by Eve Watling
Q+A with the filmmaker
For the first of our monthly Staff Pick spotlights, we’re thrilled to introduce the brilliant short doc, Love In The Factories: Cambodia’s Underground LGBT Community. Directed by One World Media Fellow Eve Watling, the film follows Sor Kanika, an LGBT woman from Phnom Penh who escaped to a local factory because her sexuality was unacceptable to her parents.
We spoke to Eve about her experience making the film, the One World Media Fellowship and her top tips for anybody hoping to embark on their first solo documentary project!
How did you come across the story for your project?
It was 2014 and I was living in Cambodia. I was having a conversation with a local LGBT activist in Phnom Penh about gay rights in general. She mentioned in passing that gay Khmer women are known to migrate to the capital to work in garment factories due to the relative freedom they find there.
In Cambodia, women are quite socially restricted by their families and communities; they are largely expected to marry men and have children, as well as behave in a traditionally feminine fashion. Garment factory work means they are away from this family expectation, financially independent and living within a largely female housing community, which includes many other LGBT women.
Not a lot of research has been done on exactly how many, but anecdotally it is very common to find same-sex relationships in the garment worker community. Of course, this situation is far from idyllic – garment workers receive terrible pay, work long hours and live in cramped, bad quality housing. And despite feeling oppressed by their families, many women still miss them, and feel bad about leaving. It’s a painful and complex trade off.
What was the most challenging aspect of making your film? How did you overcome this?
The most challenging part was shooting itself. I usually do written stories, so getting used to paying attention to a million different things like sound, camera, lighting while doing the interview was quite a shock! I practiced a lot beforehand which helped me prepare.
What was the most valuable thing you learned during the process?
I learned so much from this project. Learning the whole process of documentary making from start to finish, with all the complicated parts in between, was an amazing lesson. I learned that you don’t have to include everything, even if the film is about a really complex issue like LGBT women in Cambodia. Because if you try to squeeze in too much, the film becomes heavy and confusing.
I also learned about what news organisations want from documentaries, about the importance of capturing actuality and what kind of things are valuable in post-production.
How did the One World Media Fellowship help you make your film?
The project would not have been possible without One World Media – the fund covered the whole production. This was my first ever documentary film, so having the grant secured gave me the confidence and freedom to try this new storytelling form. I felt very supported, and got good advice from the mentors concerning the strange new world of film distribution. I learned so much in the process and I’m really grateful for the support.
What advice would you give someone making their first documentary?
Sort out as much as you can beforehand – you can always change your mind later in the edit, but if you’re shooting abroad, you probably only have one shot at getting the right footage. It’s so true that with film, it’s better to show rather than tell. My subjects worked such long hours that it was really hard for them to find time for an interview, so I wish I could have shown more of their lives. And don’t forget to shoot as much B-roll as possible!
After finishing her film, Eve secured a distribution deal with Journeyman Pictures.
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