Documentary filmmaker John Pirozzi premiered his long-awaited film, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten, this past Saturday, January 11, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It is an homage to a musical renaissance that was happening in the 60s and 70s — Cambodian musicians were creating a rich, unique sound all their own, blending Western rock and pop with traditional Khmer folk music. Cambodia’s phrenetic capital was an exciting place to be then, with an active music scene the likes of which the West had never heard before and would not ever again, with the tragic intersection in history with the Vietnam War.
After illegal US bombing destabilized the country, the Khmer Rouge quickly overthrew the country and within a span of just a few years, proceeded to exterminate 2 million Cambodians, a third of the population, one of the worst modern genocides. Artists, musicians and intellectuals were systematically selected to be slaughtered first. Miraculously, a few notable musicians survived and 3 decades later, Pirozzi has been able track them down to preserve their memories of the music and culture both before and during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror.