A River Changes Course, 2013

Kalyanee Mam
A River Changes Course, 2013
Digital video, colour
83 minutes
Khmer & Jarai with English and Arabic subtitles
Film still


This work explores the human and environmental damage rapid development has wrought in rural Cambodia. These communities, which once reaped the bounty of their mountainous jungles and lush rivers, have witnessed deforestation, land scarcity, and the rapid depletion of fishing stocks. The documentary follows three young Cambodians as they struggle to overcome environmental and economic adversity.


Kalyanee was born in Battambang, Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime. In 1979, she and her family fled the refugee camps at the Thai-Cambodian border and eventually immigrated to the United States. Even to this day her mother recounts stories of their flight. Kalyanee's father walked ahead of the family to protect them from land mines. They slept on pieces of plastic laid across the wet, jungle floor, while constantly evading soldiers pursuing them along the way. These stories and many others inspired Kalyanee to return to her native homeland for the first time in 1998, during the summer of her junior year at Yale University. And they continue to inspire her to make films about atrocities occurring in Cambodia even today. But she was not always a filmmaker. After graduating from UCLA Law School, she worked as a legal consultant in Mozambique and Iraq. In Mozambique, she discovered a passion for photography. In Iraq, she discovered a passion for advocacy on important contemporary issues. These two passions enabled her to direct, produce, and shoot her first documentary short Between Earth & Sky (co-director David Mendez) about Iraqi refugees. And eventually led her to work as Cinematographer, Associate Producer, and Researcher on the Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job with director Charles Ferguson. Kalyanee hopes to continue to combine her passion for art and advocacy to tell both compelling and universal stories.