A journey into solitude: The Plastic House screens at the Sydney Film Festival
Documentary The Plastic House delves into a young woman’s imagination of what life would be like after her parents pass away.
Being a solo project that explores the filmmaker’s own experiences, Allison Chhorn takes on the roles of director, screenwriter and cinematographer.
The result is a poetic journey of Allison working alone in her family’s green house, combining manual labour with old camcorder footage of her Cambodian migrant parents.
Shots of Allison planting, picking seeds and pulling dry leaves are set against a natural soundscape of birds chirping and rain pattering.
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Dialogue is minimal, as Allison embraces the silence that comes with solitude. Silence is also an important element of her own lived experience as an Asian Australian.
“The language barrier, not being able to speak to my parents fluently – it creates that silence. I’ve since found that that is very common in Cambodian families,” Allison explained.
Since making the film, Allison has moved away from the greenhouse, so for her the film is very evocative of a particular time and place.
“It’s become almost an archival document. It’s like the whole film is a memory.”
Allison hopes that viewers will connect to the themes of loneliness, healing and memory. Although it is a personal story, audiences are encouraged to think about their own families as well as the nature of isolation.
The Plastic House also explores aspects outside of Allison’s control, such as the effects of extreme weather caused by climate change, which ultimately pose a threat to her solitude.
She explained that being absorbed in the slow, meditative process of tending to the greenhouse – much like her filmmaking process – helped her to keep her fears at bay.