“Bouncing Betty…Pineapple…Claymore… Every one, 10 die,” 12-year-old Boreak explains as he shows off hand grenades, landmines, and a machine gun. Six years ago, Boreak lost his right arm to a landmine accident and now lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia, at Aki Ra’s Landmine Museum, where he studies and helps educate visitors about landmines. Despite his physical disability, Boreak is refreshingly mischievous and inquisitive. He wants to be a football player, a rap artist and, most of all, a professional wrestler. Singaporean directors James Leong and Lynn Lee follow the daily lives of Boreak and his best friend, Vannak, as they go to school, tease girls, and explore Cambodia. This charming documentary tells the story of a violent past and hopeful future.
Following Boreak to his rural hometown near the Thai border, the film reveals the harsh realities for Cambodian families who must continue to farm on land that is scattered with millions of landmines. Boreak’s mother has eight other children. Even though his accident happened just metres from her home, she must continue to raise the family there. Bravely, she accepts this life and tells Boreak he is lucky to live in Siem Reap and to have the chance to study.
Since 1979, more than 20,000 Cambodian children have been crippled by landmine accidents. Aki Ra, the founder of a landmine education centre and home for child landmine victims, was a child in the Khmer Rouge army who became an explosives expert at age 13. Now in his 30s, Aki Ra is trying to make amends for his past and has taken the lead on the removal of over 30,000 landmines. Ultimately, Aki Ra’s Boys is a celebration of a child’s indomitable will. Boreak may be a victim, but he doesn’t behave like one. His ability to laugh is a testament to the courage and strength children have in the face of adversity.