Review: ‘Sleepwalking Through the Mekong’

Docu spotlights California combo Dengue Fever, touring Cambodia with a repertoire of Khmer pop classics.

An engagingly different rock ‘n’ roll docu, “Sleepwalking Through the Mekong” spotlights California combo Dengue Fever, touring Cambodia in 2005 with a repertoire of ’60s and ’70s Khmer pop classics. A treat for the growing audience interested in musical obscura and exotica, this uplifting toe-tapper is tinged with poignant reflections on the fate of artists under the Khmer Rouge. Unique subject matter should guarantee plenty of gigs on the fest circuit, with specialized tube dates to follow.

Band consists of five guys from Long Beach who recruited dynamic Cambodian-born songbird Chhom Nimol to sing tracks made famous by Khmer pop icons Ros Seray Sothea and Sinn Sisamouth, both of whom vanished during the Pol Pot era. An instant hit on arrival in Phnom Penh, the outfit is given a TV special and sets up shows wherever a stage and speakers can be found. Most enriching and informative are the interactions with Khmer master musicians and schoolchildren, all of whom join in for a truly inspiring open-air finale in a shantytown. A little heavy on travelogue, docu is smartly shot by helmer John Pirozzi. Soundtrack rocks.

Sleepwalking Through the Mekong

Production

A Film 101, M80 Music, Bananastan production. (International sales: Film 101, Los Angeles.) Produced by John Pirozzi, Josh Otten. Executive producers, David Neupert, Nicholas Kalikow, Mike Minky, J. Andrew Greenblatt. Co-producer, Monique Levi. Directed by John Pirozzi.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Pirozzi; editors, David Dodson, Bryan Carr; music, Dengue Fever. Reviewed at Bangkok Film Festival, July 20, 2007. English, Khmer dialogue. Running time: 67 MIN.

With

Chhom Nimol, Zac Holtzman, Ethan Holtzman, David Ralicke, Paul Drewe Smith, Senon Gaius Williams, Khy Sokhorn, Khy Mom, Khy Rin, Khee Sokley.
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