Montreal graffiti artist FONKi returns to his 'Roots' in powerful documentary
Plus, the artist chooses his favorite works
Montreal-based graffiti artist FONKi's extraordinarily emotional return to his ancestral Cambodia is the subject of Jean-Sébastien Francoeur and Andrew Marchand-Boddy's documentary The Roots Remain. The film — which has been screening across the country since last November — makes its Toronto debut on April 5 as the final screening of Cinema Politica's winter program. FONKi himself will be in attendance, and spoke to CBC Arts about the film (as well as offering us a few of his favourite works, displayed throughout this article).
"This movie is important because of its universal messages illustrated through the lense of my friends Andrew and Jean-Sebastien," FONKi said. "It is a message of resilience, family values, hope and love."
To put things into context, consider the fact that the country's once-thriving culture was essentially destroyed by the brutal reign of Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide of the mid-to-late 1970s. Through Cambodian film archives and new original footage, The Roots Remains brings to light what FONKi's family went through during that period as he reunites with them. It also offers a hopeful glimpse at how Cambodia's youth are utilizing hip-hop culture to help revitalize their once-fractured country. FONKi himself tries to instill a passion for street art within that youth culture by taking on his largest mural to date: a tribute to the relatives he lost during the genocide.
"For me, the whole process of making this film has enabled inner peace within my family and my country's history," FONKi said. "Not only for myself, but [also] within the people who watched it — starting with my own siblings."
FONKi said the strong emotional reactions he's seen from the film made him realize that The Roots Remain goes beyond his own personal family story — a thought seconded by the film's co-director Andrew Marchard-Boddy.
"We have had a lot of feedback from the Cambodian community around the world telling us how the film has helped them to cope with their pain, or to help in their healing process," Marchard-Boddy said.