Speaker, Filmmaker and Activist
New Year Baby
Socheata Poeuv is the founder of Khmer Legacies, which has the goal of recording 10,000 testimonies of survivors of the Cambodian genocide by encouraging children to interview their parents.
Relatively little documentation of the Khmer American experience exists. Parents and older generations are hesitant to remember and openly share their experiences because of the trauma of war, violence and genocide. Khmer Legacies aims to preserve and deepen understanding about the history of the Khmer Rouge from the perspective of survivors, bridge the generational divide between Cambodian parents and their children, and transform the culture of denial and avoidance in Cambodian communities. In 2007 Socheata received the competitive Echoing Green Fellowship, an organization that provides seed funding to start-up non-profit organizations. She was a Fellow at the Genocide Studies Program at the MacMillan Center of Yale University. She finished her MBA at the Yale School of Management as a Soros Fellow.
Socheata was born on the Cambodian New Year in a Thai refugee camp. Her family immigrated to the US and she grew up in Dallas, Texas. Her parents refused to discuss the war or their lives under the Khmer Rouge until Socheata was an adult; one day they called a family meeting and revealed that Socheata’s older brother was actually her half-brother; her mother’s first husband and daughter had died during the genocide. Her two older sisters were actually her cousins, the children of her mother’s sister, orphaned during the war.
Her parents’ revelation raised more questions than it answered. Socheata decided to return to Cambodia with her parents and older brother. NEW YEAR BABY documents their story of survival and healing.
NEW YEAR BABY has received rave reviews at film festivals around the country, and has received the Movies That Matter Award, sponsored by Amnesty International at IDFA, Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, Best Documentary at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the VC Film Festival, the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize at Asian American International Film Festival, and the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival. It is scheduled to air on the show Independent Lens on PBS on May 27, 2008.
“Filmmaker Socheata Poeuv’s appearance at Springfield College was phenomenal! As a packed auditorium of students, faculty, administrators, senior citizens, and other members of the Springfield community waited, they were greeted by a remarkable woman, poised, talented, and passionate, who introduced her award-winning film, New Year Baby with an exceptional and thought-provoking Powerpoint presentation. When the lights dimmed for the film, the audience was astounded by her powerful film documenting Socheata’s journey with her family to Cambodia to unlock the secrets of their suffering under the Khmer Rouge. Through storytelling techniques of voice-over narration, interviews, and animation, Socheata was able to inform the viewers of the terrors of the Khmer Rouge as well as touch the hearts of all who watched with moments of great compassion, poignancy, and humor. Her achievements as filmmaker and CEO of Khmer Legacies strongly inspired and motivated my students and the rest of the appreciative audience.”
Dr. Carol Mitchell
Professor of Film and English
“All of us that were there that night watching the film and listening to Socheata speak were truly touched. The strength in the film and her voice were simply remarkable. I often think about how some people have the strength and power to overcome such obstacles such as the genocide in Cambodia. I believe it all comes down to love for one another and the will and power to fight against the monsters who created the massacre of Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.”
Springfield College freshman in Dr. Mitchell’s English class
“Throughout middle school and high school, the general focus in history is American history. The only genocide that my friends and I remember learning about is, of course, the Holocaust. Why didn’t I learn about Cambodia in high school? Why is it that a lot of people don’t know about the Cambodian genocide and the Khmer Rouge?”
Springfield College freshman in Dr. Mitchell’s English class
“ I loved listening to Socheata speak to us. She reminded me about so many important things in life such as learning about family members no matter where they are from and to live life well because we are very lucky to be here. I hope that Socheata continues to share her story with people all over the United States because I think it is important for everyone to be reminded about these significant values.”
Springfield College freshman in Dr. Mitchell’s class
“[Socheata's presentation] was wonderful – what impressed us the most was how she was able to tailor the presentation to her audience. Her message to the students and faculty was inspiring and educational.”
Reinberger Upper School Library
The Columbus Academy
“Socheata was a very composed, friendly, and easy-going speaker to work with. Her documentary, New Year Baby, was humorous at points, however, the overall emotional impact really touched our audience in an eyeopening way. Socheata engaged the audience at the Q&A session and many students were very interested in talking to her after the session. It was a pleasure having Socheata at Drexel University!”
Assistant Director, Campus Activities Board
“Socheata Poeuv’s film is a moving depiction of her family’s return to Cambodia, almost forty years after fleeing Pol Pot’s regime. Poeuv’s visit to Cal State, Long Beach captured the hearts of our students and our local Cambodian American community, most of whom have been touched by the devastating effects of that time. Our Cambodian American students embraced her and thanked her for sharing a common story — one of both tragedy and triumph given that this generation of twenty-somethings were there to watch the film.”
Perrin Reid, M.A., J.D.
Director, Office of Equity and Diversity
California State University, Long Beach
“Socheata Poeuv is an engaging speaker who touches the hearts of her audience as she describes life experiences and work as a human rights activist. New Year Baby is brilliantly and sensitively filmed. Socheata’s personal quest for answers to her family’s history provides a dramatic context for creating an awareness of the atrocities that the Cambodian people have endured.”
Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Endicott College
“The night of the screening we experienced a number of technical mishaps. Yet, in spite of the added pressure this placed on Poeuv, she remained composed, eloquent, and gracious: she offered an impromptu talk on the historical relations between Cambodia and the United States before the screening and, following the screening, conducted an intimate and insightful Q & A that drew the audience to their feet by the end of the night. Poeuv is an eloquent and generous speaker: the audience responds immediately and warmly to her intelligent and thoughtful words.”
Lai Ying Yu
“I saw Socheata speak to a large audience at Yale and, based on that, I invited her to speak to my ‘Leadership & Values’ class. Socheata is a very charming speaker, the subject is very important, and the DVD is very polished; the combo makes for a powerful and moving experience. Without giving away too many spoilers, there are several parts of this movie (especially when the producers—years later—confront those involved in the perpetration of the genocide) that will make you say wow.”
Daylian Cain, Ph.D.
Yale School of Management
“New Year Baby was an excellent, captivating, accessible, personal means through which to learn about the little known, seldom taught Cambodian genocide. Socheata’s warmth, sincerity and passion clearly spoke to our students; the opportunity to dialogue with Socheata was a powerful complement to the film screening.”
Aya S. Murata
Dean, Pine Knoll Cluster
Andover Phillips Academy
“[New Year Baby had] four times the normal turn out and [the Activities Board had] never seen some many students stay for a panel discussion afterwards. Students approached me and Deepti Vanguri after the film showings to tell us how much they enjoyed the film. I truly feel New Year Baby is the best documentary I’ve ever seen.”
Ann M. Mallett
Vietnamese American Heritage Archivist
The Vietnam Archive
Texas Tech University
“A touching, personal journey highlighted by gripping first-person accounts. Poeuv sheds light on the past of an entire nation that is dealing with the aftermath of genocide. Near Year Baby is a powerful story that will speak to educators and students alike.”
Director, Research and Documentation
Shoah Foundation Institute
University of Southern California
“One of the best films that I’ve seen in years! This is an excellent resource for educators across the country”
Scott Sherman, Ph.D.
Visiting Lecturer on Social Change
Princeton University & Yale University
Winner: UC Berkeley Outstanding Teaching Award
“New Year Baby shines a powerful compassionate light on a dark period in history few of us know enough about and nothing will move you like the resilience and extraordinary courage that this documentary reveals.”
Nancy Allen Professor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Visiting Fellow, Harvard University
Pulitzer Prize Winner
“This is an amazing and powerful film that should be screened in schools across the U.S. Socheata’s work is beautiful and empowering.”
Yale Council on Middle East Studies
“Socheata Poeuv is an incredibly powerful speaker. After several years of programming events at Washington & Jefferson College, I’ve never had the pleasure to work with a lecturer more poised and inspirational. Our students were unbelievably touched by her message, and left with a greater sense of their own purpose. Socheata empowered everyone in the room to be more aware of their own ability to make an impact in the world. As an individual, Socheata was fantastic and easy to work with, and I would love to have her back to campus in the future.”
Ashley M. Williams
Student Activities, Involvement, and Leadership
Washington & Jefferson College