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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 28, 2003

Cambodian Flutist To Visit UI For Film, Discussion Nov. 5

Arn Chorn-Pond, a Cambodian flutist, former child soldier, internationally renowned human rights activist and Khmer Rouge Killing Fields survivor, will visit the University of Iowa Nov. 5 to attend the Iowa premiere of "The Flute Player," a documentary about his life. His visit is sponsored by UI International Programs as a preview to International Education Week, which runs Nov. 17 to 21.

The film will be presented by The Bijou at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5 in the Illinois Room (No. 348) of the Iowa Memorial Union, followed by a discussion with Chorn-Pond. The film and discussion are free and open to the public, but due to limited seating, those who wish to attend must pick up free passes at the University Box Office in the Iowa Memorial Union starting Monday, Nov. 3, during regular box office hours: from 10 a.m. to the last film showing Monday through Friday.

The free film screening and conversation are made possible with support from UI International Programs, the UI Center for Human Rights, The Child Labor Research Initiative, The Bijou, the UI Labor Center and The Center for Asian and Pacific Studies.

The film will be shown two other times: at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3, and at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, both also in The Illinois Room. The cost to attend these showings is $5.

The one-hour documentary film by Jocelyn Glatzer portrays the life and work of Cambodian genocide survivor Chorn-Pond. He was a young boy when Cambodia's Khmer Rouge military regime took power in 1975. For four years, he followed the strict orders of the Khmer Rouge -- doing whatever it took to save his own life amidst torture, murder, starvation and brainwashing. As a child enslaved in a labor camp, Chorn-Pond was forced to participate in the execution of others in order to survive, and to play propaganda songs on his flute for his captors' entertainment.

He was later forced by the Khmer Rouge to fight against the Vietnamese when they invaded Cambodia in 1979. After seeing his friends killed on the front lines, he escaped to the jungle, eventually finding his way to a Thai refugee camp. Two years later, an American refugee worker adopted Chorn-Pond and brought him to the United States. At the age of 16, Chorn-Pond was living in rural New Hampshire, struggling to rebuild what was left of his shattered life. In an effort to reconcile with his past and to prevent future atrocities, Chorn-Pond set out, flute in hand, to awaken the world to Cambodia's Killing Fields.

Diana Davies, director of UI International Programs, said "The Flute Player" is a perfect way to preview International Education Week.

"The film is a moving and inspiring account of one person's courageous efforts to revive and renew his country's lost traditions, inform the world about the Cambodian genocide and find peace with himself in the process," Davies said. "The film also reminds us of the importance of knowing about the histories, cultures, politics and current events of all parts of the world, a message that will be voiced many times during International Education Week, Nov. 17 to 21."

Today, at the age of 38, Chorn-Pond has taken his tragic past and turned it into something inspirational. He is striving to heal the deep scars of Pol Pot's genocide by bringing Cambodia's once outlawed traditional music back to his people. An estimated 90 percent of Cambodia's master musicians (the trained professionals) were killed or starved to death during the Killing Fields and the ensuing Vietnamese occupation. As the few surviving traditional master musicians grow old and fall ill, a way of life quietly sits on the brink of extinction.

"I am ecstatic that Arn has found several hours from his national road trip to join us for the debut in Iowa," said Chivy Sok, deputy director of the UI Center for Human Rights and project director of the Child Labor Research Initiative. "He has been an inspiration to so many of us who struggle to bring human rights to those in need. Arn is the ultimate example of how individual actions can lead to saving lives."

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability and require accommodations in order to participate, please contact Amy Green at 319-335-1433 or Lois Gray at 319-335-2026.

International Programs consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost for academic program and dean for International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: Photos and/or graphics for this article may be found at