For two months in early 2007 I worked with Anne Bass on the initial stages of what would eventually become Dancing across borders, a documentary film on the career to date of Sokvannara Sar, a dancer who grew up in Cambodia and who is now dancing with Pacific Northwest Ballet. The film has been hugely successful since its release in 2009 and the website that documents its production, and that also gives contextual material about other initiatives including the Khmer Dance Project, is well worth a look.
Michelle Potter, 8 April 2010
2 thoughts on “Dancing across borders. A film by Anne Bass”
I finally got to see this documentary (a year later!). Very interesting even if the production quality is only average. But, um, what was the plan to be for Sy if he hadn’t made a success of things in America? Was he to be shunted back to Cambodia, end of story? The documentary raised more questions for me than it answered.
Pity it wasn’t made by an independent film maker, really. There are some intriguing ethical issues raised by Anne Bass’s actions which the documentary glosses over.
What was your involvement, Michelle?
I was involved only marginally in the early stages of working out how to approach the documentary. It was during my time in New York as Curator of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. I saw most of the raw interview footage recorded in Cambodia and helped with the recording of the interview with Peter Boal in Seattle. I spent some time with Anne Bass during February, March and April 2007 discussing sequencing and other matters relating to the unfolding of the story. After that things went into abeyance and were not taken up again until after I left New York in February 2008. So I had nothing to do with the final version really.
It is, however, a fascinating story from many points of view and I agree it does raise many issues. From my conversations with Anne I know she had thought deeply before making the offer to train and educate Sy in the US and about what she would do if Sy had not achieved the level of success that he did. She has been generous to his family as well and supports a variety of Cambodian projects. This of course does not justify her actions to those who think it was an unethical act to remove Sy from his environment. As I said a fascinating story, which comprises the story of a donor as well as of a dancer.