Sreyra, Ponler, and Sreyven are three young garment workers in Cambodia. Day after day, they produce clothes for the most important global brands, until something exceptional disrupts their routine: suddenly they pass out in the workplace, an event that is followed by their colleagues fainting en masse. Episodes of mass fainting like these are not uncommon in Cambodia, where labour conditions remain harsh. According to trade unionists and government officials, this is caused by long work hours, high temperatures, and malnutrition. However, workers tell a different story: what happened to them is caused by spirits (boramey), angered by the lack of respect shown by the factory owners. Starting from this enigmatic background, Boramey: Ghosts in the Factory offers insight into the lives of Cambodian garment workers at the intersection of work, religion, family, and spirituality.
Length: 60’ | Year: 2021 | Country of Origin: Italy | Country of Filming: Cambodia | Language: Khmer | Subtitles: English
As China embarks on an ambitious path of industrial upgrade, investors in labour-intensive industries are looking elsewhere for cheap labour to fuel their factories. A young country barely a few years removed from civil war and genocide, Cambodia is one of such places. After spending more than one decade documenting the situation of labour rights in China and bringing the reality of worker activism in the ‘world factory’ into the spotlight, we have now decided to follow these flows of capital and turn our attention to the plight of Cambodian garment workers. To us, the enigmatic phenomenon of mass fainting is a unique lens through which to investigate not only the hardships that these young women experience in the workplace, but also the struggles and pressures that they face in their daily lives. By investigating the compenetration between the real and the supernatural, through this film we aim to offer a glimpse of the life of Cambodian workers at the intersection between work, family, and spirituality. In this sense, the spirits are a conduit to the personal psychological turmoil in the aftermath of genocide, as well as the fraught family bonds and the harsh living conditions of a new generation of Cambodian workers.
Tommaso Facchin and Ivan Franceschini