A genocide survivor’s dream to revive an ancient sport becomes an inspiring mission to inspire a nation.

An elder master leads a team of young proteges on a grassroots mission to revive an ancient martial art and win international competition. Like many of Cambodia’s great traditions, Bokator was nearly eradicated by the Khmer Rouge 40 years ago and was feared extinct. Shot over 5 years, this powerful award winning film is a unique look into a post-war people’s efforts to reclaim traditional identity and find their place in a modern world. And as the only film to capture Bokator’s resurrection, it has become an historic record.

  • Mark Bochsler
    shorts and medium format
  • Mark Bochsler
  • Kevin Schjerning
  • Fernanda Rossi
  • Faisal Lutchmedial
  • Tamara Scherbak
  • Sandra Leuba
  • Loy Te
  • Kevin Schjering
    Prom Night in Mississippi
  • Sandra Leuba
    Excecutive Producer
  • Cambodian Space Project
    Name of Band or Artist
  • Tharoth Sam
    Key Cast
    "herself (Little Frog)"
  • San Kim Sean
    Key Cast
    "Grandmaster San Kim Sean"
  • Darith Ung
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    POV, Coming of Age, Female Empowerment, Family Drama, Sport, Culture
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 27 minutes 13 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 27, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    247,813 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    Central Khmer, English
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Cambodia International Film Festival
    Phnom Penh
    October 13, 2018
    World Premiere (not finished cut)
    Official Selection
  • Austin Film Festival
    Austin, Texas
    United States
    October 27, 2018
    International Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
    United States
    November 9, 2018
    East Coast Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Hamilton Film Festival - Finalist
    Hamilton, Greater Toronto Area
    November 11, 2018
    Canadian Premiere
  • 2018 Asia Pacific Golden Award Winner
    No screening
    Golden Award Winner
  • IndieFEST Film Awards - Award Of Merit
    United States
    Award of Merit - Asian Documentary Film
  • 49th USA Film Festival
    United States
    April 27, 2019
  • Boston Asian American Film Festival
    United States
    May 17, 2019
  • European Cinematography Award - Best Documentary
    April 1, 2019
    Best Documentary
  • Global Film Awards - Best Debutant Filmmaker
    Los Angeles
    United Kingdom
    April 1, 2019
    Best First Time Film Maker
  • NYC Indie Film Award Winner
    New York
    United States
  • Asian Cinematography Award Winner - Best Documentary
  • Jaipur International Film Festival
    January 18, 2020
    Best Debutant Filmmaker Documentary
  • Chumbuk International Martial Arts Film Festival
    Korea, Republic of
    September 1, 2019
    Korean Premiere
    Opening Film of festival
  • Lonely Wolf London International Film Festival

    United Kingdom
    Winner Best Documentary
  • Lonely Wolf London International Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    Winner Best Documentary Director
  • Lonely Wolf London International Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    Nominee Best Picture
  • Liverpool International Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    Winner Best Documentary
  • Bangkok International Documentary Film Festival
    Best Sport Documentary
  • Paladino D'Oro Sport Film Festival
    Winner Best Editing
  • FICTS World Champion Sport Cinema Festival
    Mention D'Honeur
Distribution Information
  • Finalizing within the next few months
    Country: Worldwide
Director Biography - Mark Bochsler

Mark Bochsler, Director / Cinematographer:
Mark Bochsler is an award-winning Canadian cameraman and photographer, turned filmmaker. During his 25-year career, his work has been screened internationally at festivals including Cannes (2010, At Home By Myself… with You), and television (ARTE, Animal Planet, Discovery, CBC). He was also nominated for a CSA / Gemini Award (Fatal Deception, CBC, 2013).

Mark is a visual artist and storyteller fuelled by a passion to explore diversity and points of view through real human stories. He believes that stories about the human journey are the fabric of our time, and sharing them can bring much needed empathy to today’s fractured world.

Mark currently resides in Toronto, Canada with his partner in life and work, Sandra Leuba, and their two young children.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Dear Programmer,

Inspired by the determination of Cambodians to save their threatened heritage, I initially set out to make Surviving Bokator to capture this unique moment in Cambodian history, the early days of the struggle to revive one of the world’s most ancient martial arts, Bokator. In this way, the film would serve as a national and world cultural heritage record.

Yet, a couple of years into filming, unexpected events happened in the story putting Bokator’s revival mission at risk. From that, deeper themes emerged giving the film greater scope and purpose. The generational conflict that exists in many post-war, post-trauma societies, for example.

Surviving Bokator is an intimate personal narrative that also represents the broader story of a post-war people, struggling to reclaim their traditional identity and find its place in a modern world. For Cambodians, the ancient Khmer martial art of Bokator (which has its techniques carved on the walls of the majestic temples of Angkor Wat) is today a metaphor for the Khmer people’s collective strength and resiliency.

Universally, the film has great social relevance, and beyond the Cambodian and martial arts diaspora the film is having great impact with audiences. It illustrates directly the critical value culture and identity hold to us all. In today’s global climate of war and conflict, it is also an inspiring catalyst for the healing that we wish to see worldwide, the ability of a people to steer through adversity and to recover from devastating loss.

As Bokator continues to grow, so has our film’s audience and the impact the film is having. A decade after we first began filming this story, the Bokator grassroots movement has swept Cambodia, and will soon reach around the world. And late in 2020, Bokator will be officially endorsed by the United Nation’s cultural wing, UNESCO when it receives World Intangible Cultural Heritage status.

Thank you for your consideration. We would be honoured to screen our film at your festival, and share with your audiences a Bokator performance and other cultural ad-ons.

Mark Bochsler