STOP10: 'A Life Like This' by Isaiah Tour

Have a better life.

Spoken in simple words from a limited vocabulary he could muster in a language foreign to him, Isaiah Tour’s father delivered these words with sincerity and a hopefulness that touched me deeply. His face hardened from years of labour but eyes a true reflection of his emotions.

Isaiah Tour’s father only had that one wish for all the people he cares about, spending days on end working in a box factory in a country where he struggles to express himself in English. Tour’s wish, now with this film, is to capture that resilience, hope and to make visible his mostly absent father’s decisions and history that has shaped him into the man he is today.

Though never sharing a hug on screen or any physical contact when in conversation, this journey is emotional nonetheless. From absence to uncovering the constant presence of his father in his every day life, the complexities of the past and the weight of new understandings lie within their voice, gaze and the poignant pauses every so often.
A Life Like This is an 11-minute animation documentary written, directed and produced by Tour himself. As a young New Zealander and a first generation immigrant, Tour lost touch with his Cambodian roots and grew up in an environment vastly different from his father. In an attempt to bond with his father, he explores the family’s refugee story as survivors of the Khmer Rouge Regime from 1975 to 1979.
Isaiah Tour

This film is one of six presented by The Outlook for Someday. This seems to be Tour’s take on the theme sustainability from the point of view of family relationships, cultural roots and the passing on of narratives through generations. It was recently screened at the 8th Cambodia International Film Festival.

I must say that the Khmer Rouge Regime is a dark moment in Cambodian history and being relatively recent, you can still see the aftermath of it when you visit the country – the lasting effects on its people and morale that are yet to fade.

To tell this narrative and capture it on film is a huge task to take on, however Tour does it with authenticity and grace. Combining interview footages together with animation, he manages to balance and tread the thin line of establishing the violence of it without being overbearing. He took on the role of sharing his story and educating his viewers on what his father’s experiences were in that terrifying time, without propagating or imposing judgment. I also found it touching that within all that tragedy, portrayed through digitized humans getting shot and separated from family, Tour also gave equal attention to the fortunes and love his family encountered as well.

A Life Like This is a film so generous in sharing his own personal history, that it resonates deeply with me – prompting me to reflect upon my own shared family history of love, loss and the constant looking out for the future generations to come.

Link to watch the short film here.
Review by Dawn Teo

Check out the other 9 films in our STOP10 list of Cambodian films from CIFF 2018.
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