The Last Refuge (Le Dernier Refuge)

Anne-Laure Porée and Guillaume Suon
2013 | 65 minutes | Cambodia, France

In the heart of Cambodia, the Bunong people have inhabited the forest for over two thousand years, practicing animism and living in close accord with their natural environment. Recently, though, the region has fallen victim to one of the world’s most aggressive deforestation campaigns, with 2.85 million hectares of Cambodian forest leveled for rubber cultivation. The Last Refuge, produced by celebrated Cambodian director Rithy Panh and directed by Anne-Laure Poreé and Guillame Soun, follows a young woman from the community as she returns to document the devastation of the environment and the resistance by the Bunong people. 

Co-presented by the Asia Society

Preceded by The Guide Boy, Lady Stone, and Minister of Papaya

This program highlights the work of the Bophana Audiovisual Center.  Co-founded by Cannes-award-winning director Rithy Panh (The Missing Picture, 2013), the center is dedicated to restoring and protecting Cambodian audiovisual heritage and training new filmmakers.

"When the bulldozers raze the sacred tombs of ancestors, the Bunong’s identity —the soul of the people— is most violently attacked. It amounts to a denial of their existence. This event is at the origin of my documentary. For the Bunong people I had met in this far eastern province of Cambodia —in the highlands of Mondulkiri—and for me the limits of acceptability had been crossed.

A few kilometers from the Vietnamese border, the Bunong people are facing the setting up and rapid expansion of economic land concessions, supposed to bring development to this remote area. They lose their fields and their forests, which provide them with resources and where they bury their ancestors. They lose everything because the bulldozers of several companies clear their land in order to grow rubber trees. I wanted to give a voice to these people who struggle against a process of colonization that pushes or destroys their geographic, cultural, and personal boundaries. It is also urging us to think about the life we want."

- Anne-Laure Porée and Guillaume Suon | Directors, The Last Refuge