Tri-Valley residents will have the opportunity to learn the story of one of the most impactful musicians in the world when the "Elvis of Cambodia" documentary is shown at the Bankhead Theater next month.
The feature-length film celebrates the life and legacy of Sinn Sisamouth, known as Cambodia's "Golden Voice" and the most famous Cambodian singer. The documentary highlights Sinn's musical achievements and impact on Cambodia's golden era of music during the 1960s and early 1970s. He was executed in 1976 during the Cambodian Genocide from 1975-79.
"The key takeaways from this film is that although Sinn Sisamouth was killed by the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime, his music and legacy live on in the Cambodian identity," said Sophaline Mao, chief operations officer for the Mony Nop Real Estate Team, which is partnering with Barang Films to present the Bankhead screening.
"As music and artists have the power to influence and bring about change, they are even considered enemies when a new authoritarian regime takes over. With freedom of expression via the arts, one can have a voice and drive great change," Mao told this news organization.
The event is led by Mao and Mony Nop, who said they feel that it is their duty to introduce this film to the Livermore Valley Arts community. It will give genocide survivors a way to heal, connect and inspire resilience -- just as Sinn's music had done to comfort their children growing up.
"Music serves as a connector across cultures and stretches beyond language," Nop said in a press release. "'Elvis of Cambodia' is not only a film about Sinn Sisamouth, but the plight of the Cambodian identity, our rich history of music and resilience as a community to carry on this legacy."
Documentary filmmaker and director of Barang Films Chris Parkhurst found an enduring connection between the survivors and Sinn's music while working on a different documentary in 2004. Many genocide survivors still celebrate Sinn's era of music and legacy that continues to impact the Cambodian community around the world.
"Sinn Sisamouth's music is a direct connection to a Cambodia from before the war and the genocide," Parkhurst and Stephanie Vicenti of Barang Films stated in a press release. "They spoke of his music bringing them back to happier times when Cambodia experienced peace and prosperity."
After the film, an audience Q&A session will be held with Parkhurst and Jay Chan, a Cambodian-American musician who Sinn inspired as a teenager, in hopes of further educating the current generation about the history of Cambodia and its strong cultural roots.
"For the Cambodian-American community, this film will bring them closer to their history and cultural heritage as music and performing arts define so much of their identity as a collective," Mao said. "Our diverse Tri-Valley community, regardless of cultural background, will connect through this film as they see how the power of music can bring people together."
The "Elvis of Cambodia" film will be screened at the Bankhead in Livermore on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at livermorearts.org and more information about the film can be found at barangfilms.com/elvis-of-cambodia.