The Storm Makers

PBS Premiere: Aug. 31, 2015Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Interview

Filmmaker Guillaume Suon discusses the making of the film, The Storm Makers.

Guillaume Suon: The Storm Makers is a documentary film about human trafficking in Cambodia, and in fact The Storm Makers is the name given by Cambodians to human traffickers because when they arrive in the village, they bring a storm and tears with them, so the film is about two human traffickers and the former slave who was sold into slavery when she was 16.

The film started when we met with Aya. The first time we met her, we knew that she will be the face that could represent the human trafficking system; she could represent all the victims. We met her through NGOs. She was on a list of victim coming back from Malaysia and we met every single victim that were on that list and that's how we met with Aya. And once we met her, we never let her go and we filmed her for three years.

The Storm Makers is not only a film about human trafficking. In the film, you can see a lot of social problems that are very relevant nowadays in Cambodia like social violence, illiteracy, land grabbing, domestic violence, slavery, modern day slavery, and in the film what I really wanted to show is the impact of human trafficking on the humanity of the people involved in the system, both the victims or the human traffickers. And the violence that people are used to live when they are victim of human trafficking has a trace, has an impact also on the next generation.

We don't really know how many people are victim of human trafficking in Cambodia. We can say between half a million to one million migrants being enslaved from Cambodia to Malaysia to Thailand to Taiwan, even to Europe.

The root causes of human trafficking is poverty. People are starving and they really need to support their family live. And the population targeted by human traffickers are almost the same everywhere in the world. They are illiterate, because in their areas there is no school most of the time. They don't even have the money to send their children to go to school. In Cambodia this population have no field anymore so they cannot feed their family, so the only choice they have is to go to find an opportunity abroad. They really need to bring back money so they can support their family.

The trafficker Pou Houy is a very particular man. He's very enigmatic. But at the same time he's quite fascinating because he's lying a lot, because he has a lot of things to say in front of the camera and I didn't have to convince him to participate in the film. He wanted to show that nowadays, today, thanks to the human trafficking he's a successful man, he's powerful and he is respected. And in the current Cambodian society these values are more respectable than the shame of doing an illegal business.

And he represent human trafficker. They have the same ability to convince. They are good talker and they are very sympathetic to people because they are preying on their hope because they are swearing that they want to help the migrant, but in fact the only thing they want is profit and Pou Houy is a perfect representation of all these human traffickers which are heartless and who lie a lot and who really manipulate other people for profit.

When we film the migrants crossing the border we prepare before shooting this scene for many weeks with migrant, with villagers, also with the traffickers who were helping the migrant to cross the border. And we had an agreement with all of them. We could film, but we had to stop at the border because after the border, then we could put them at risk because if the Thai soldiers catch migrants and human traffickers, in a lot of case they are shooting. They are shooting at will. So we had to let them go. We could film them on the way to the border, but we had to stop so we don't endanger the group.

We spent a lot of time working without the camera. We decided to meet them as a person, not as a filmmaker and this is why I think they trusted us. Because we took our time and because we were honest with them we explain them why we wanted to make this film. We didn't want to judge them, especially the traffickers. We told them that I didn't agree with him the main trafficker, and I told him but I explained that in the film, I wanted to give him the opportunity to explain how he came to traffic human being for profit. So when you take your time with people and when you really try to understand them, I think they feel it and then they can open up to you and they can accept the camera.

We found out very quickly that Aya, the young mother, was violent with her own son and it's a quite common reaction for women who are raped and who have the child from the rapist. In most of the case, the women are getting an abortion or when the baby is born they are very violent with him, with their own son. And it's the case with Aya. We didn't witness any violent scenes, but we could feel it at the beginning of the feeling. But then after spending a lot of time with her, explaining her what was the situation she was being a victim of, she took her distance towards her son, she wanted to build a new relationship with him. And nowadays she's not living with him. She let her son living with her own mother and she's living far away from him. I think she need time to accept him as her own son and not as the son of the rapist. But this, she really need to think about it and she really need to take her time to understand that.

I want to continue to work on the same line as The Storm Makers, very close to the individuals. I really want to keep on telling human stories to film on a long period of time because it's valuable not only for the films, but for myself as a human being as well.