Autobiography seems like a great challenge in Neary Adeline Hay’s Eskape. She visits spaces she visited but have no memory of. One of these spaces include the forests between the border of Cambodia and Thailand. There, refugee camps so people like her and her mother can escape the Khmer Rouge. She was a toddler during one of history’s worst chapters, navigating those spaces with a camera like a ghostly presence. She speculates on what she and her mother must have felt then. We use speculation as a word because her mother, Lieng other has only given her one story during those days.
Eskape, then, becomes the story about Adeline gently pushing Lieng. Both revisit some of the places that got them from Cambodia to a suburb in the south of France. Cambodia is a no go for Lieng. But other places like government housing both in southern France and Paris are ok. The French locations are less painful obviously, but it’s interesting to watch people navigate spaces that change drastically. Even if yes, changes that take place through decades shouldn’t surprise anyone. Places and people look different but the camera is more easily able to catch people’s growing pains.
Hay eventually gets Lieng to expand on the one story that the latter has allowed herself to tell. That original story is about how smugglers tried to convince Lieng to leave Adeline behind. An addition to that story includes them trekking the mountains dividing Cambodia and Thailand. Adeline pairs Lieng’s narration with those mountains which seem peaceful but have dark stories underneath. Hearing these stories can bring insight depending on who’s listening. My personal take on this is that Eskape connects travel and privilege. People leave their homes to survive yes, but this documentary shows that pain.
Eskape premieres on Hot Docs on May 4.