Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia

Samsara, a sanskrit word, is the Buddhist concept of the continuous, endless flow of suffering through birth, death and rebirth. Liberation from samsara, or Nirvana, is the highest aim of Therevada-Buddhist path.

Having worked in refugee camps on the Thai border, film maker Ellen Bruno was first exposed to the shattered lives of Cambodians who had fled the Khmer Rouge regime. Family, culture, tradition, and religion were all crushed during the 5 year civil war that claimed between 1.4 million and 2.2 million lives*.

In 1989, Bruno returned  to film Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia, documenting the perseverance of the human spirit and the journey to rebuild the country, and the psyche of the Cambodian people after the horrors of the Pol Pot regime. Samsara is part one of a trilogy of films on Asia by Bruno, with Satya: A prayer for the enemy exploring the treatment of Tibetan Buddhist nuns by Chinese authorities for non-violent protest against the Chinese occupation, and Sacrifice, examining the social, cultural, and economic forces behind trafficking of young Myanmarese girls into prostitution in Thailand.

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This year, the US Library of Congress have included Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia in the National Film Registry.

Learn more about Bruno’s powerful films here:


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