Live From SXSW's Screening Room


D: Jocelyn Glatzer.

Documentary Feature First Films, World Premiere Arn Chorn-Pond floats through Glatzer's first full-length documentary as if an avenging angel. He shouldn't be here, for starters, considering that his most vulnerable years, as a kid growing up in Cambodia, were spent in the violent darkness of Pol Pot's shadow. As two million were tortured and, more often than not, killed, Arn was spared because he could play the flute in the regime's band. Well-liked and respected by his peers, teacher, and even the highest-ranking of S-21 officers, he was nonetheless forced to tithe on his second chance -- by helping to erase anyone else's. He would strip detainees in preparation for their deaths. He would watch them die. Three decades later, then, long after escaping to Thailand and being adopted by an American, Arn is torn in two different directions: whether to languish in his guilt or revel in his renewed spirit. He does both, by traveling back to Cambodia to teach aspiring musicians. The archival footage that Glatzer mixes in with that of Arn's alternately depressing and enlightening visit does much to convey the desolate feeling of a culture almost vanished. At 56 minutes, The Flute Player is packed tight with emotion and digressing threads, and it's tempting to wish that Glatzer -- with a self-effacing, funny, dynamic subject like Arn -- had gone longer to give each aspect of the film its own thrust, but it's such a potent story that any more might be too much. (The Flute Player won the Audience Award for Documentary First Film.) (Hideout, 3/14, 11am)

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