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Acclaimed Author, Student Filmmaker Headline Program Honoring Cambodian Experience

by Nancy Cicco
 
“Rekindling the Light of Khmer Arts,” an event celebrating Cambodian culture and heritage, will unite the UMass Lowell community and the public for a celebration of dance, literature, filmmaking and folklore.
     Featuring acclaimed writer and physicist Alan Lightman and Chummeng Soun, a UMass Lowell art and design major from Lowell, the free program will be held on Monday, Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. at University Crossing, 220 Pawtucket St., Lowell.
     “The event will invite the public to share in the important work being done to honor and advance Khmer culture as it showcases the contributions of these inspiring artists,” said English Prof. Sue Kim, co- director of the UMass Lowell Center for Asian American Studies and associate dean of undergraduate studies for the university’s College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
     Alan Lightman is the founder of the Harpswell Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to empower women in Southeast Asia by providing college scholarships, leadership programs and housing. During the event, Lightman will discuss the work of his foundation and his inspiration in founding it, as well as read from and answer questions about his latest book, “Three Flames,” which knits together the hopes and struggles of a Cambodian farming family as they work to break free of cultural constraints. The book, which will be available at the event, draws upon his experiences leading the foundation.
     Lightman, who received an honorary degree from UMass Lowell in 2010, has penned novels, essays, a memoir and books about science. His works include the international bestseller, “Einstein’s Dreams,” a novel that has been translated into 30 languages, and “The Diagnosis,” for which he was a finalist in 2000 for the National Book Award for fiction.
     Chummeng Soun, a senior at UMass Lowell, will screen a trailer for his upcoming documentary, “Sopileak: Unveiling the Magic and Mystery” at the event. The film recounts the revival of a long-lost classical Cambodian dance as it follows a journey from Lowell to Paris taken by Phousita Huy, artistic director and master teacher of the Angkor Dance Troupe, which will perform as part of the program. The film reveals the creative process behind Cambodian dance, an experience Soun knows well, as he has been a principal dancer and senior dance instructor with the troupe and serves on its board of directors. To assist him in producing the film, he received a grant from the Independent University Alumni Association at Lowell, which is presenting the event in partnership with UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College.
     As part of the event, participants will have the opportunity to explore UMass Lowell’s Southeast Asian Digital Archive, which will be accessible on video screens. The archives, which are free to use and available to all, include documents and photographs that chronicle the history and experience of people of Southeast Asian origin living throughout Greater Lowell.
     “Art gives voice to people whose stories oftentimes get lost or are silenced. UMass Lowell’s Center for Asian American Studies is proud to co-host this event with our community partners as we work to preserve the culture of the Khmer people and to educate the public about its richness and significance,” said UMass Lowell College of Education Associate Prof. Phitsamay Uy, a leader of the digital archive project who co- directs the center with Kim.
     Tickets are not required to attend the free event. Members of the public who would like more information should contact CAAS@uml.edu.
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