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TENTH DANCER

Australia, 1993 (MIFF 1993, Documentaries)

Director: Sally Ingleton

Under the genocidal regime of Pol Pot over ninety percent of Cambodia's artists were killed, including most of the classical dancers of the Royal Court Ballet. Only one in ten survived. The Tenth Dancer is both the story of one such survivor: Em Theay, and a portrait of Cambodia's struggle to return to normalcy after the tragedy of the Pol Pot years and to revive it's decimated cultural and artistic heritage.

After Pol Pot was overthrown Em Theay, now Head teacher of the National Dance Company, returned to Phnom Penh to help rebuild the troupe of the Royal Court Ballet. There she met up with her former student Sok Chea, who she has subsequently trained to become one of the principal dancers in the company.

The Tenth Dancer is an intimate portrait of the relationship between these two women, teacher and pupil, set against the chaos of modern Cambodia. The film weaves together the past and the present, memory and dream, to reveal a story of human dignity and survival. As Em Theay prepared her dancers for the Cambodian New Year celebrations, a time for remembering one's ancestors and paying respect to the gods, the dancers remember the New Year of 1975 when Pol Pot seized power and the story of the killing field began.

"Under Pol Pot we were all without hope. We thought we wouldn't be able to come back. Now it is as if the flame is back. Before, during Pol Pot time it had been extinguished. I had no energy to create the movements. It seemed like I was in a dream. Now I have hope to live. Just like a tree that is coming into bud and beginning to blossom." Em Theay

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