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Kalyanee Mam ’99: Cambodia to Wall Street to Sundance

When your family survives one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern history, everything else might seem mild in comparison. Still, Kalyanee Mam ’99 has tackled some tough subjects in her years as a lawyer and documentary filmmaker: human rights, Iraqi refugees, the global financial crisis. Now she has returned to her native Cambodia—which her family fled in 1979, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, and about which Mam wrote her Yale senior essay—and emerged with a Sundance Film Festival entry, A River Changes Course.

Mam’s feature-length directorial debut, the vérité-style film “explores the damage rapid development has wrought . . . on both a human and environmental level” through the eyes of three young Cambodians.

“They are cutting down the forest all over the country,” Mam tells an interviewer, predicting that the deforestation will produce a new generation of refugees.

Part of an Oscar-winning team for Inside Job, “a searing piece of muckraking on the causes of the financial crisis,” Mam nonetheless faces fearsome competition in Sundance’s World Documentary category: the Kremlin-challenging punk rock women of Pussy Riot.

Filed under Sundance Film Festival, Kalyanee Mam, Cambodia
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