May 1st, 2012 | Published in Media & Film
Roses & Red Ants is a story about four Princes and a soldier fighting a Civil War for the soul of Laos as a proxy to the Cold War. Sinakhone Keodara, the producer of this film, believes that this story belongs to the Laotian diaspora and to the world:
Briefly describe your project.
Roses & Red Ants is an extraordinarily fascinating and never-been-told story that time has forgotten, about the Laotian peasant revolution and struggle for Independence. It focuses on four Princes and a soldier fighting a Civil War against a backdrop of Cold War policies and other outside influences.
This project started with a Times.com article from 1964 called “Laos: The Awakening.” I saw my friend Thevarith Chanthavone shared it on Facebook. I figured I should probably know a little bit about my history. Reading the article, I couldn’t believe it as the story unfolds in my mind’s eye–that it really happened and the characters seemed to leap out at me, especially General Kong Le. I was like Oh my God! This really happened and these characters were from my country? I can’t believe no one has made a movie about this. Then, the next thought that entered my mind was you should do it. I was like, “Oh no, I can’t do that. There are far more talented, smarter and capable people than myself. They should do it.
But, it kept nagging at me. It keeps coming up. I get these visions and images of bombs silently dropping on women and children and it wouldn’t go away. Sometimes it so was intense that I cry because it was painful. As a matter of fact, I still cry sometimes when I work on this story and I put it away for awhile until it calls me again. It’s as if these people were demanding that their stories deserve to be told; that they want their day in the sun. In a lot of ways, this is a story about Sleeping Beauty. Roses & Red Ants was asleep since 1964 until I stumbled upon it on Facebook and it began to whisper in my ears what my mission is in life–to tell this story.
The Laotian Diaspora has come of age. The struggles of our forefathers deserve to be memorialized so that the voiceless would not remain silenced, the nameless forgotten and the faceless forever erased from the pages of history. Laos deserves to assume its rightful place in the history of the world. But more importantly, I’m telling this story so that the so-called “Lost Generation” of the Laotian Diaspora can be found–know who they are, where they came from and what their ancestors left behind. They have a right to know what happened. I believe that this story, whose time has come, belongs to the Laotian Diaspora and to the world.
What is your timeline?
The first timeline is to have a trailer done by next April. My friend and mentor Dr. Vinya Sysamouth, the executive director of Center for Lao Studies has approached me about screening our trailer and having a Q&A panel at the film festival as part of the 4th International Conference on Lao Studies in Madison, WI. But, I’m hoping to be done with production by the end of 2013 and release it no later than the beginning of 2015.
What is your personal background? How does it relate to this project?
I’m a refugee from Laos living in exile in America. Like close to a million of us displaced Laotians scattered throughout the world, I am a living legacy of the Laotian Civil War. It has impacted my life directly so I’m intimately tied to the subject matter of this project.
What are some of your goals for the project?
First and foremost, I want to tell this story to the best of my ability. Tell it with compassion, heart and yet be historically accurate. I want to document the struggle of Laotians for sovereignty and put Laos back on the pages of the history books where it belongs.
I want to redefine Laotians on our own terms by telling this story from Laotians’ perspectives. For example, Laos is a true diamond in the rough and a sort of Sleeping Beauty; she has been cunningly pigeonholed—since time immemorial—as the poorest landlocked country in the world by perpetrators to her detriment. In truth, Laos should be characterized as the richest land-linked country in the world—in terms of diversity (over 50 ethnic groups), abundant natural resources and serving as a pivotal conduit for strategic and geopolitical connections between Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma) and China.
I intend to have Roses & Red Ants be a vehicle to expose the terrible and hidden secrets of the Laotian Civil War for the lost generation; to attempt to exorcise the shame of years past, to lay bare a conspiracy of silence that exacerbates the lingering wounds of war, and to encourage an overdue conversation about our shared journey toward reconciliation and healing.
In the long run, I hope this project will help give Laotians–of all ethnicities–living in Laos a sense of national pride and for the Laotian Diaspora to take pride in being from Laos. I’m of the opinion that movies have the power to mold a people, to heal and to inspire change.
Do you have any concerns?
My biggest concern is that not all the voices (including Government Officials from Lao PDR) within various ethnicities will come to the table to have their voices heard for fear of persecution by the Communist Regime in Laos. The other major concern is that we won’t be able to document pivotal interview subjects before it’s too late. Last year, three of our potential subjects who were close to this story and was there during General Kong Le’s coup passed away. This is a stark reality.
I implore the Government of the Lao PDR to agree to allow me and my team to go into Laos and interview subjects who were there during our civil war and be a part of this project. I believe that the Communist’s perspective deserves its day in the sunlight. It’s never been done in the West that Communists are given a chance to tell their side of the story. They too deserve that chance.