MIFF Review: Funan


Funan is the journey of Chou, a young mother in 1975; during the height of the Khumer Rouge rampage. Chou has her life hijacked by the communist revolution when they sweep her home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The story is set within the chaos as Chou and her family are all relocated to farms where they are sent to work.

This 2018 animated French feature film has finally hopped across the oceans to be screened at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival. Funan is a perfect example of why MIFF is so important to Melbourne. Audiences are drawn to the stories and perspectives as MIFF’s program includes innovative and award-winning films that may otherwise be overlooked in a small Aussie general release. The film festival showcases a diverse array of cinema, no matter how esoteric or uncompromising some of the themes may be. Good or bad doesn’t really matter here, it’s always fresh. 

And cinematically, when it comes to Funan; the film is good, really good.

Funan is a violent and crushing reminder of the horrors of war, and how humanity has a great capacity to devalue the life of another being. Throughout the horror of it all, is also a story about our great capacity to persevere despite this horror. That being said, the downturns of this movie are extreme, and definitely a trial for any viewer sitting through it. Funan has no problem shining a light on how awful conflict is and how awful it can make people behave as desperation turns even family members against each other. The film features these heavy themes without much relief. As a viewer, there were times when I wanted a break from the unrelenting heartbreak. 

The only light in all the darkness is the beauty of the animation, it’s like seeing a landscape painting brought to life. It has that Disney-like magic, where violent acts are softened but the emotional intensity of the story is retained, thanks to the wonderful facial animation and solid voice acting. 

For director, Denis Do, this is a personal story and it shows as the connection to character is strong. The animated ensemble feel like real people who are trying to act rationally in an irrational reality. While the terrors of the front line are most often thought of when thinking of war, Funan explores the life of those left behind. Families stripped of their loved ones and personal freedoms. 

Funan is an animated film that is a worthy addition to anyone’s ‘to-watch list’. You can expect to be challenged and confronted with some harsh, hard-hitting realities, but that’s what the international cinema showcase that is MIFF is for! You can always browse the festival program and pick a lighthearted comedy to see afterwards!


Funan is now showing at Melbourne International Film Festival 2019. Session times and ticketing info can be found here.