In France, the English drive on the right

Some trips are not taken for pleasure or leisure. For many people in her circle of acquaintances, Méas Pech-Métral is a nurse. Few of them knew about the horrors she had seen before the release of her first book. She grew up in Cambodia under the regime of the Khmers Rouges. She managed to escape and make a new life for herself in France. This film is the story of this woman and the discovery of her own country, which had become foreign to her. A country which is struggling to recover, not accepting its own recent history.

Through her testimony and those of the people we met during this journey, it is a part of history that we try to understand.

2006 – 80 minutes.

First Critic :

Making a documentary film is a risky and sensitive business. Immediately, key issues need to be addressed such as how to portray the truth and not compromise reality, how to find the right distance or the right approach towards the subject, how to present a point of view which is neither staged or arbitrary. How is it possible to create a personal work at the same time as showing the point of view of the subject without compromising one or the other, without cheating or without making oneself invisible.

In the case of “In France, the English drive on the right” Aurélie Grospiron did not broach an easy subject matter – how to relate some of the most horrific acts of genocide of the 20th century, committed by the Khmers Rouges in Cambodia? Indeed, it takes nerve for a young director to tackle a period of history about which she previously knew nothing. Her vital lead, her Ariane's thread in this labyrinth, this black hole in history, was a young Cambodian survivor, Méas Pech-Métral, who had found refuge in the French area of the Haute-Savoie.

Aurélie Grospiron chose to tread in the footsteps of Méas, to follow her to the places of her memory and to film her, listen to her speaking, to question people and landscapes. Modest, humble attitude of the journalist-reporter, moved by emotion and sympathy for this radiant woman. With her natural charisma, Méas was an obvious choice to be filmed for a documentary, and her character burst onto screen. The strength of documentary filming, and its difficulty, is that we do not film characters but people. Aurélie's aim was, naturally, to capture faces and words in situ, and to show the difficulty of the process of remembering in Cambodia, of the process of mourning. She doesn’t obtain confessions of former Khmers Rouges members, she is confronted by silence, by the lies, by the unspoken.

And it is there that Aurélie excels as a film-maker: in her way of lingering not over the events but over the space, the gaping holes of consciousness, focussing on the unspoken, the immense part that is buried under what is said and what is shown.

Let us take for example the remarkable shot where Méas, questioning the landscape of her childhood, gives confused glances, her voice hesitating: the camera fixed for a long time by this emotion, does not let us escape, puts us in front of the unspeakable and it is a moment that Aurélie finishes with a panoramic view of the landscape, the metonymy of Cambodia entirely. All the style of the film is there: in this extreme attention to the human being, on what cannot be said, in this frustration shared by the actors and the spectators to find answers to the why of things. All the editing is guided by this round trip Méas-Aurélie, at the same moment close and distant, relaying emotion and reflection. Two glances, a book, a filmmaker's work.

Serge Vincent.
Professeur de lettres et cinéma, Lycée Charles Baudelaire, Cran-Gevrier.