Michael Siv, Director, Producer, Writer
Michael Siv is an award winning Cambodian-American filmmaker and journalist. Siv's filmography ranges from exploring the challenges of growing up as a Cambodian refugee in San Francisco's tenderloin district to documenting the many facets of the immigrant experience in America as a journalist for New America Media. His latest film, Daze of Justice, begins with Dr. Leakhena Nou, whose work with Cambodian-American genocide survivors connected them to the UN Special Tribunal prosecuting the Khmer Rouge. Shot in Verite style, Siv takes us on an intimate journey in which three survivors not only confront their own past but find themselves face to face with Pheng, the son of Kaing Guek Eav (Alias "Duch"), one of Pol Pot's most feared torturers. In the process, Siv takes us beyond The Killing Fields. He begins to unravel the legacy of silence plaguing generations of Cambodians, generating a vocabulary for articulating and interpreting the unimaginable, and taking us, along with his camera, deep into the shadow of one of the twentieth centuries most abominable, and least understood, calamities.
Daze has received wide acclaim across the United States, winning the Emerging Director of Documentary Feature at the Asian American International Film Festival, Social Justice Award at World Cinema Initiative (Cannes) and Best Documentary Feature at the IndieFEST Film Awards. It is slated for national broadcast on PBS. As part of his outreach efforts, Siv is setting up a website to document survivor stories, a project aimed at connecting the real and virtual, simultaneously recognizing the resilience and celebrating the life of Cambodian survivors in the context of their communities, both in the diaspora and back home. He is actively working with other American refugee and immigrant communities that have experienced genocide in the hope of conserving the memory, building the empathy and developing the tools for interpreting and transcending cultural and historical trauma.
Siv studied filmmaking through an after-school media program located in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, run by his mentor, the storied Asian-American filmmaker Spencer Nakasako. When Siv was 24, he was featured in Nakasako’s film REFUGEE, which documented his return to Cambodia, after ten years, upon learning that his father and brother, both of whom were believed to have been killed by the Khmer Rouge, had survived.
Siv’s first documentary WHO I BECAME, co-directed with Aram Collier, was part of the “Matters of Race” series that premiered on national PBS in 2003. The film follows the life of Pounloeu Chea, a 21-year-old Cambodian refugee on the brink of fatherhood and in the middle of Federal probation.
Beyond the world of film, Siv's other great passion is playing basketball. He is now the proud father of Conner, his one-year old assistant director, born in postproduction during the filming of Daze of Justice.