CTFF 2017 Official Selection: SURVIVING BOKATOR

SUNDAY, SEPT. 17th 2017 – ART THEATRE LONG BEACH: 2025 E. 4th Street. Long Beach, CA. 90814

Director: Mark  J. Bochsler
Cambodia / Documentary Feature / Khmer with English subtitles / 1 hr 25 mins / Work in progress

Synopsis: Genocide survivor San Kim Sean struggles to achieve an ambitious dream. To rescue from extinction Cambodia’s ancient martial art of Bokator, which he witnessed nearly eradicated by the brutal Khmer Rouge 40 years ago. His efforts have gained him a ‘family’ of loyal disciples training to be Bokator’s future leaders. Yet, remnants of Cambodia’s dark past emerge to threaten the very foundation Bokator needs to survive. Q&A with director Mark J. Bochsler and Tharoth ‘Little Frog’ Sam after the screeningwww.survivingbokator.com


Mark Bochsler, director of the documentary “Surviving Bokator”, poses with one of the film’s stars Tharoth Sam

Mark Bochsler | Director, Director of Photography

Mark Bochsler is a Canadian cameraman & photographer, turned filmmaker. During his 25-year career, his work has been screened internationally at festivals including Cannes (2010, At Home By Myself… with You), and television (ARTE, Animal Planet, Discovery, CBC). He was also nominated for a CSA / Gemini Award (Fatal Deception, CBC, 2013).

Mark is a visual artist and storyteller fuelled by a passion to explore diversity and points of view through real human stories. He believes that stories about the human journey are the fabric of our time, and sharing them can bring much needed empathy to today’s fractured world.

Mark currently resides in Toronto, Canada with his partner in life and work, Sandra Leuba, and their two young children.

Sandra Leuba | Producer

Originally from Switzerland, Sandra’s thirst for discovery brought her to Canada, where she found a vibrant documentary community and a future in filmmaking. Over the past 15 years, she has gained experience through diverse roles in a wide range of scripted and non-scripted projects. She has spent the last seven years dedicating her time as producer of “Surviving Bokator”. In addition to her life as a producer, Leuba also keeps one foot planted in the financial industry, currently at RBC Wealth Management as a Senior Manager, Global Credit Project.

Leuba is director Mark Bochsler’s partner-in-crime. Together they have two little boys, Lucas and Nolan who have become huge Bokator fans. You might even spot Lucas in the film!

San Kim Sean, Subject

Grand Master San Kim Sean’s story is marked by tragedy and survival. He escaped death in the Cambodian genocide (1975-1979) but was incapable of saving his two young children, from which he vowed to never again be powerless.  He fled Cambodia to train and teach martial arts in exile, but decades later returned upon learning that Bokator was unknown to young Cambodians and was vanishing.  Combing the countryside, he sought out surviving Bokator masters, gaining their support and knowledge. He opened the doors of the Bokator Academy in the capital of Phnom Penh, struggling to train and maintain a dedicated group of young instructors to carry the sport forward into the 21st century.  Today in his 70’s, Grandmaster’s fight to ‘survive Bokator’ continues, with the concern that many of the ancient techniques will pass away with the genocide generation.

Darith Ung, Subject

The 29 year-old former monk is the Bokator Academy’s star instructor and San Kim Sean’s chosen protégé  There is great promise for him, as the aging master is secretly grooming Darith to one day be his replacement.  Like his mentor, Darith too has made his financial sacrifices for Bokator.  He lives at the club and sleeps on the very mats he trains and instructs on.  But soon to be in his 30’s and wanting to secure a future for himself, Darith must confront his needs for self-reliance and financial stability, which are often in direct contrast with his service to Bokator and his master’s dream.

Tharoth Sam –  aka “Little Frog” Kalorntorn

In training to be Cambodia’s first female Bokator instructor, spry and spunky 21-year-old Tharoth is driven by nationalism and determination for female equality in a traditionally male dominated society.  At home she cares for an elderly father who, having been incapacitated by an unusual stroke, is incapable of showing her love and support.  So, she finds ‘family’ in the Bokator Academy and a surrogate father in master San Kim Sean.  But in time she will be forced to make difficult decisions about her loyalties for the future of Bokator.