Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A cage fight between science and superstition



A cage fight between science and superstition

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A screen shot from Mind Cage, by director Amit Dubey, which is premiering at the film festival. Photo supplied

A cage fight between science and superstition

Modern medicine and traditional techniques face off this week in Mind Cage, a film by Indian director Amit Dubey that was shot entirely in Cambodia, which is premiering this week at the Cambodian International Film Festival.

Dubey’s psychological thriller tells the story of a psychiatrist in Phnom Penh who defies traditional medical methods employed by Kru Khmer (traditional healers), which involves the use of harsh treatments to cure mentally ill patients. His disrespect for the traditional practices outrages one such healer. Meanwhile, his attempt to challenge the superstition also affects his family life due to his wife’s belief in Kru Khmer techniques.

Mind Cage is the first feature film from Dubey, who has lived in Cambodia for six years. It was co-written by Michael Hodgson, who also contributed to writing on the recent action comedy Jailbreak, with the undisclosed budget funded entirely by Dubey and his friends and relatives.

Dubey’s inspiration for the film comes from his curiosity about the traditional Cambodian ways of treating mental illness, which are very similar to those in his native India.

“In India, [mentally] ill people also turn to magic and rituals as the way of healing. The only difference is that in India, there is no magician to cast the love spell or make the love potions like in Cambodia,” he says.

Although Dubey and his crew spent only 20 days on filming, which was mostly done in Phnom Penh, Kien Svay and Areyksat, it took him a whole year to research the topic.

“For an entire year, I read a lot of documents, and met and talked with Kru Khmer, doctors, psychiatrists, monks and Buddhists to find out more about the traditional medical methods and the people’s belief in the superstition,” Dubey says.

While not explicitly featuring the supernatural in the film, Dubey says that he doesn’t aim to prove that “the dark side” exists, but to show the significance of superstition in a people’s mindset.

“The psychiatrist represents the small proportion of Cambodian people who do not believe in superstition, but he lives among those who do, and of course it will be tough for him to convince the others to change their belief,” he says.

In Cambodia, people often trust medicine from traditional healers more than pharmaceuticals because they consider it to be more natural. Similarly, fortunetellers and spirit mediums, whose techniques date back hundreds of years, are cheaper than modern medicine.

For Sveng Socheata, who plays the psychiatrist’s wife in Mind Cage, the film has a certain autobiographical element. She says that her own life experience is a testament to the powers of traditional medicine.

“For four years, I suffered from a severe brain tumour. I spent almost every penny I had on modern treatment, but it was not cured,” says the veteran actress, who also starred in Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father.

When she ran out of hope in 2014, Socheata met a Kru Khmer who “cured” her brain tumour with his herbal medicine and ritual, and he is now her soon-to-be husband.

“I think science and superstition complement one another. Just because you do not believe in something, I suggest you not insult it,” she says.

Mind Cage will be shown at Major Cineplex (March 5 at 6:30pm), Legend TK Avenue (March 6 at 4:30pm) and Legend Steung Meanchey (March 8 at 5:10pm). For future releases, please check the film’s facebook page.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ice cream, noodles flagged over carcinogen

    The General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) has identified three types of instant noodles and ice cream trademarks originating from Thailand, Vietnam and France that are suspected to contain ethylene oxide, which poses a cancer risk to consumers. The general department has

  • Exclusive interview with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU

    CAMBODIA is hosting the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings this week with top officials from the US, China, and Russia and other countries in the region slated to attend and to meet with face-to-face with their counterparts on the sidelines. In

  • Rise in Thai air routes to Siem Reap fuels travel hopes

    Local tourism industry players are eager for regional airline Bangkok Airways Pcl’s resumption of direct flight services between the Thai capital and Siem Reap town on August 1 – home of Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park – which is expected to boost the growth rate of

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’