Elevate Difference

Bare Hands and Wooden Limbs: Healing, Recovery and Reconciliation in Cambodia

Directed by Alison McMahan

The documentary is a shocking, consciousness-raising and eyes-opening movie. It is the true story of people living in post-war Cambodia, who try to re-build their country after years of dictatorship and fear. It is shows how they prepare the land to build new houses, how they clean the ground from millions of landmines and, finally, how they managed to make both ends meet. The viewer sees how the people learn new professions to survive and earn the living – some learn how to deal with livestock, some learn how to plough and others make tools. There might not be anything amazing about this if it was not for this particular little town – Veal Thom.

Veal Thom is a town created completely by landmines survivors, who lost their legs, hands or eyes while “meeting” planted landmines on their way to the shop, work or just taking a casual walk. The film is filled with interviews with the citizens of Veal Thom, who tell the stories of their lives and why they decided to join the amputees’ community. Most often reasons for it are lack of discrimination, feeling of unity, support and the fact of not being looked down on or treated as deformed, weird creatures unable to lead independent life. Moreover, people living in the town fought on different sides during the war and what is important now they are able to live next to each other, sharing and learning from one another.

Everyone should see this film for it is touching, beautiful form, and it teaches us how to overcome prejudices, weakness and that it is crucial to believe in oneself. Equality, understanding and cooperation can do miracles and create something amazing, regardless of the circumstances.

Written by: Monika Grzywnowicz, March 31st 2007