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Western Animation / Funan

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Funan is a 2018 French-language period drama animated film directed by Denis Do.

It is set in Cambodia in the year 1975, during the beginning of the Khmer Rouge revolution. The movie centers around Chou, a young woman whose son got separated from her during the forceful evacuation of the citizens from Phnom Penh. Other characters include her family, such as her husband Khuon, her brother-in-law Meng, her mother, her grandmother (who went after her son and as a result, she is separated from them as well), and their other children Hout, Tuch, and Lili. What follows is a series of hardships forcefully implemented on them by the regime such as working in labor camps where they work to the bone with barely any food to the point of exhaustion and illness. But through it all, Chou and Khuon never stop looking for their son.


The film is based on the director's own research and the memories of his mother, on whom the main protagonist, Chou, is based.

Compare the live-action movie First They Killed My Father, in which it is set in the same year and also deals with the Khmer Rouge regime, but from the point of view of a child.

Provides examples of:

  • Based on a True Story: Partly as it was also based on the memories of the director's mother.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. As life becomes more difficult for the family, Chou shows signs of visible malnourishment, such as weight loss to the point that her bones are showing through her face. The end also reveals that the hair she keeps under a makeshift turban has become short and thin, indicating hair loss because of poor health.
  • Bittersweet Ending: More on the bitter end as Chou's entire family do not make it throughout the course of the film, either due to illness (Tuch), suicide (Lili), starvation (Chou's mother), going missing (Meng and Chou's grandmother), or getting killed (Hout and later her husband, Khuon). Only she and her son, Sovanh manage to flee to Thailand hand in hand.
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  • Child Soldiers: Glimpses of Sovanh's experiences while his parents are looking for him show that he's being trained to become this along with the other children.
  • Dirty Communists: The Khmer Rouge. Working people to death, recruiting child soldiers through propaganda, killing anyone who opposed them (to the point that the body count reached millions by the end of their rule)? "Dirty" is too generous a term.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • Every time anyone is killed like Hout and an innocent old woman believed to be an accomplice. The only time this was sort of averted is during the near ending where a woman stabs a man through the stomach and they show the blade going through his flesh.
    • A non-fatal version was done on the family's car when a Khmer Rouge soldier tells them that owning property is capitalistic then they proceed to smash the car in front of them. But we only hear the sounds while Chou and Khuon avert their gaze.
    • The film thankfully cuts away when Lili is raped.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Khoun's cousin Sok kills one of the other Khmer Rouge guards who caught Khoun and Chou outside the camp, thinking they were trying to escape. He stays behind and is killed by another Khmer Rouge guard who happens to be the brother of the guard Sok killed.
    • The girl Sovanh made friends with lets herself be caught when she and Sovanh were stealing food. It isn't shown but it's heavily implied she is killed.
    • Khoun lets himself be chased and killed at the end, allowing Chou and Sovanh the chance to make it to Thailand.
  • I Owe You My Life: Khoun saves Peuv, the daughter of a Khmer Rouge rebel, from drowning. Later, as a thank you, she sneaks food for Chou and her family, which Chou rejects to keep her dignity. Later, when Khoun and Chou use the Vietnamese attack to escape, Peuv sees them hiding but does not alert the other rebels to their location. When Chou and Khoun find Peuv about to be killed by a mob, Chou convinces them not to.
  • Rape as Drama: Lili is sexually assaulted by a Khmer Rouge soldier and her mother, erroneously believing that he's the one leaving them food on their doorstep, tells her to stay with him and keep being nice to him. She commits suicide out of shame and much to her mother's misery.
  • Too Unhappy to Be Hungry: Chou's mother starves to death, implied to be due to the death of her other daughter, Lili, who hanged herself after being raped by a soldier. Not helping matters is that the last thing she told her is to stay with him to curry favors for the family.
  • Traumatic Haircut: The women with long hair are subjected to have their hair chopped into a short bob. One of Chou's family members is visibly distraught by this.
  • The Voiceless: Chou and Khuon's son remains silent throughout the film except for one instance when he calls out "Mama" when his mother nearly falls while crossing a log during their escape.
  • Would Hurt a Child: It's also heavily implied that the Khmer Rouge would kill a child. Sovanh becomes friends with a little girl during his separation from his parents. She sacrifices herself when they are both caught stealing mangoes. They do not show what happens to her, but she is never seen again making it very clear as to her fate.