Vanna Hem lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. With our support he made ‘Gay pride 2012 Phnom Penh’ and ‘Karma?’ and with DOHN, he produces ‘Lotus Sports Club’ now.
Lotus Sport Club
A documentary about LGBTQI+ football.
Help us bring this inspiring story about gender diversity to life and support LGBTQI+ sports in Cambodia.
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2019, we are currently in post-production working on a rough cut of the film. We still need your help and support in order to complete the post-production process and get to the final cut of the movie.
Join us and become a Lotus Sports Club supporter, Click here for your sponsoring.
Thank you so much!
Arkoun Chraen! អរគុណច្រើន!
Lotus Sports Club tells the story of three trans-identifying athletes (FTM), part of a women’s football team in rural Cambodia (Kampong Chhnang), who find the strength and courage to live the life they have chosen. Sovan is the 61-year-old passionate founder and coach of the team that he established in 2009 in order to encourage solidarity among straight, lesbian and gender-diverse players. After living with Sovan for many years, two of the young players, Srey Leak and Amas, decide to fly out of their familiar nest and move to Cambodia’s bustling capital, Phnom Penh. The film chronicles their inspiring personal journeys within the backdrop of traditional Khmer society. This compelling, fascinating and empowering story will take the viewers on a unique and emotional journey through a world of love and solidarity between individuals that have finally found a community they feel they fully belong to.
The Lotus Sports Club Football Team
The Documentary Genesis
The Lotus Sports Club documentary project originated in 2015 when Cambodian documentary filmmaker Vanna Hem, Cambodian NGO Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK), and Robert Witlox, founder of Dutch NGO Document Our History Now, decided to join forces for a new project about LGBTQ+ communities in rural Cambodia. The story of coach Sovan and of the football team in Kampong Chhnang captured everyone’s attention due to its unique elements and the determination and dedication of Sovan. Vanna established, since the beginning, a trustful relationship with all of the participants and was welcomed in the house where Sovan, his wife and a few of the team members live. All of them have been interviewed frequently about various aspects of their lives, their relationships and about the changes they have gone through over the years. In 2017 Tommaso Colognese, who had met Vanna in 2015 in Cambodia while both working on Angelina Jolie’s Netflix production “First They Killed My Father”, joined the production team as producer. After a new period of filming (Dec17-Mar19), the team put together a 7 minutes long promo while having the interviews transcribed in English. After running a successful Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2019, and completing the transcribing process, the editing of the rough cut started in January 2020 and will continue throughout the year.
Director Vanna Hem and Sovan posing with the new LSC sign
Where We Are Now
Because of the Covid-19 global emergency, the editing of the rough cut was interrupted at the beginning of March 2020. It has resumed in July for a tentative conclusion in the winter 2020. Depending upon securing those funds necessary to complete the post-production stage, the film will be then completed and released in 2021.
Team member Amas and director Vanna Hem
Supporting the Lotus Sports Club
The Lotus Sports Club and its members will benefit from the visibility and recognition opportunities that this film will provide them. Our goal is that through this film the team will get connected to more organisations that are willing to support it on the long term. Sovan has expressed in many occasions his wish to have a visiting foreign coach coming to Cambodia and training the players. The players would love instead to be able to play abroad. We want to make sure that these wishes can become a reality and want to create a fund for the club, supporting study wishes of the team members and material support to the Lotus Sports Club and its members. Click here for your sponsoring.
The Lotus Sports Club football team in Kampong Chhnang
LGBTQI+ Community in Cambodia
In Cambodia LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination from their families, community, and society. They face tremendous stigma if they “come out” and live openly. LGBTQ+ are restrained to limited economic opportunities and in order to acquire access to work, they need to hide their sexuality. Such contextual circumstances affects LGBTQ+ people in their road to self-acceptance.
However things are evolving fast in Cambodia: step by step, the social and public climate seems to be changing, and moving in a positive direction for LGBTQ+ people, despite the challenging political and human rights situation. A new generation of young LGBTQ+ people is not afraid to bring their stories and fight for acceptance into the public domain. Emerging activists and organizations need more support and communication tools, so they can serve as role models for others in the same situation. This will enable the community (like RoCK and the Lotus Sport Club themselves) to better communicate with the general public, where unawareness and ignorance about the diversity among the LGBTQ+ group is still prevalent.
Lotus Sports Club will bring empowering stories about the LGBTQ+ community to the general public in Cambodia and beyond. Such positive insight in diversity and tolerance will be essential in giving Cambodian society a better understanding of this minority group and help fighting any discrimination towards it. Once the film will be completed, the Cambodian LGBTQ+ community will have an important tool for instilling self-acceptance, generating discussions, breaking down barriers among their members and displaying positive role models to be inspired by.
RoCK – Rainbow Community Kampuchea
Cambodian LGBTQI+ organization RoCK has been closely involved in the project from the start. During the post-production phase RoCK will work closely with us, ensuring that the content of the film, its translations, and narrative choices are respectful and faithful of the community and of the subjects involved. RoCK’s involvement will also be essential in making sure that the film and its important subjects will be able to reach a bigger audience in Cambodia than LGBTQI+ people only.
While RoCK’s involvement will help us shaping the right language for the Cambodian audience, we will also make sure that the film and its message of love and tolerance can resonate also outside of Cambodia and can be enjoyed by audiences all around the world. The film tells an extraordinary, empowering, and relevant story about diversity, tolerance, and inclusion that can be appreciated by everyone because of its universal appeal.
We have had already a lot of international interest in Lotus Sports Club. Research institutes, universities, NGOs, and international film festivals have expressed interest and willingness to set up activities once the film is completed. We will work hard to make sure that the film and its message will be traveling throughout the world and that the effects will be beneficial to Cambodia, the LSC team and its players, and the LGBTQI+ community.
The Creative and Production Team:
Producer/Writer/Director: Vanna Hem
Born in 1984, Cambodian documentary filmmaker Vanna Hem has established himself as one of the leading voices in Cambodia in the arena of social and LGBTQ+ films. His credits include the short-form documentaries “Lives Under the Red Lights”, “Karma” and “Where Do I Belong?” which have all been selected in many local and international film festivals. Since 2015, Vanna has been working on his first feature-length documentary Lotus Sports Club, while shooting videos for many other NGOs. He currently lives in Phnom Penh.
Producer/DOHN’s founder: Robert Witlox
Founder and coordinator of Document Our History Now, Robert Witlox has worked as a health and welfare professional and advocate for LGBTQI+ and people living with HIV in the Netherlands for the last 25 years. He was Manager Director of the Dutch HIV association for 13 years. He founded DOHN in 2013 and since then he has worked as a freelance project manager and producer of various storytelling projects. He currently lives in Amsterdam.
Producer/Writer/Co-director: Tommaso Colognese
Tommaso Colognese is an Italian independent film producer based in London. His credits across the production department include major motion pictures (First They Killed My Father and The Breadwinner are some of the last productions he worked on), independent projects such as the documentaries Suddenly Last Winter, The Labeque Way and Religulous and the award-winning sci-fi short The Nostalgist.
Writer: Martina Serafin
Martina is an Italian screenwriter, currently working as a freelance consultant for both independent documentaries and mainstream series. Her credits include successful Italian TV programs and documentaries. Her storytelling is often about youth subcultures and LGBTQ+ rights. She is based between Rome and Milan.
Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) was created in 2009 by Cambodian LGBTQI+ activists to raise awareness on Cambodian LGBTQI+ people rights. www.rockcambodia.org
A change-maker and human rights researcher, Céline is the former technical advisor for the NGOs RoCK and Destination Justice for which she co-organised the 2017 ILGA-Asia Regional Conference, published several reports and educational videos. After living and working seven years in Cambodia, Céline is now based in France where she is finishing her PhD at Aix-Marseille University.
Valeria started her film career in corporate films and documentaries before moving into independent feature films. She worked her way up through the ranks of production, eventually undertaking roles working on big budget studio feature films for Warner Brothers, Universal and Disney. In her role at Pathe as Production Executive, from 2014 to 2019, Valeria helped to oversee and support each production from development through to distribution. She is currently working as a freelance production consultant and independent producer.
Composer: Joeri Pronk
The beautiful tracks of the Lotus Sports Club Kickstarter promo video have been kindly composed by the talented London-based Dutch electronic musician and composer Joeri Pronk. Visit his website to listen to more of his evocative music: www.joeripronk.com
Music: promo track: “Unknown Title” by Pan Ron, curtesy of Minky Records.