Same Same but different

I watched the film about these two people. How touching.
ben and keoThis is the photo of the real couple that inspires this movie “Same same but different”. Real Ben and Sreykeo are reportedly in their 20s.


This is the real scene which the film imitates. “Same same but different” is a very touching love story between a German young journalist and a Cambodian former club girl. There was a constant fighting inside Ben when he fought with the idea of loving Sreykeo who worked at the night club, called the Heard of Darkness. In Cambodia, men who decide to do that have to endure a lot of ill talking and interfering relatives. After meeting for the first time and ending up in bed together, Ben and Srey Keo were drawn to each other when Srey Keo shared with him her heart-breaking life with her siblings and a mother who gambled. It doesn’t take a minute to realize that her life was just to work and earn money for her unkind family. The movie features herself living in the White building (called ‘Buidling’) which in reality looks like an abandoned derelict building.There were many controversies. Ben saw himself hooked to Sreykeo. Whether it’s for sex or for fun is still questionable in the film or reality in my opinion. Ben asked her to stop working in the club and promised to send her money every month. Only while Ben was back in Germany working to earn more money did Srey Keo find out she was infected with HIV. Instead of running away, Ben tried to find the best medicine for Srey Keo. At that time, there were not real ones (antiretroviral -ARV) available at local hosptials or in the local market. He had to travel to Bangkok to purchase it.
Ben had to deal his way up to purchase it from abroad. When going back to Germany to earn more money, Srey Keo, though, continued to work just as a beer girl in Phnom Penh without selling sex as part of her promise to Ben. Life wasn’t easy for Ben in Germany and either for Srey Keo in Cambodia. Srey Keo demanded a little more money for her family while Ben struggled for his life as well. Depressed and angry with Ben who stopped corresponding with her, Srey Keo resumed her previous job. But fate brought them back together. When Ben was about to give up, something pulled him back. “Srey Keo has only you,” he remembered her telling him on the phone.
What captured my attention the most was the beginning of when they met. Srey Keo asked Ben how many candles he would bring with him into a dark cave. He replied that he would bring along ‘two candles’. Srey Keo interpreted for him that he had loved two girls in his entire life. At the end of the movie, Sreykeo asked him again, and he said “one candle”. 🙂 “What if the candle were blown off?” Srey Keo asked. “Then, I’d carry you forever,” he said.
Althought the movie might not have covered every real scene of reality, I find the movie very captivating and very true. I’d observed so many painful stories that I even thought such a sweet thing didn’t exist at all. I did suppose that Ben would leave Srey Keo forever without looking back when she told him she had HIV. A common story here in Cambodia or elsewhere. But he proved to me that a guy like him who can have plenty of sex in his country has a precious inner mind, even under depression and pressure, to come back to Srey Keo and help her.
As I see it, Srey Keo is a simple girl who needs a person who truly loves and can take care of her. The question I always ask is what proper life skills each person should acquire to survive and live decently. Desperate Srey Keo, like thousands of other girls, needed to keep her family fed. This is the question the authorities should take into serious consideration. Besides all these pleasant romantic things that happened, the movie also features Cambodia as place for sex tourism. Though Ben should not be included, there’s some truth that his friends or people he knew of come here for that. For sex and drugs.
The lesson learnt from this movie for me, is ‘they love each other no matter what history each brings to the present.’ And this is what I can call ‘love’.
After all, all I can say is that: this movie reflects sheer and painful reality of Cambodian society and how Cambodia is struggling for its survival. Amid suffering, shame and poverty exists true love of a couple who do not care about what history each brings to the present. What matters is not the past but the present where one can make a change. Srey Keo, despite being a former club girl, has changed herself because of Ben. That’s to say, no matter where you are or what you do, you are CAPABLE OF LOVE.
The story would have ended this way: Srey Keo died of HIV and Ben would live in Germany with happiness or remorse due to lack of commitment. However,  Ben and Srey Keo are determined to break all stereotypes an discrimination imposed upon them. A  romantic plus humanitarian film of the year.

10 thoughts on “Same Same but different”

  1. Thank you for this post. Although it is kind of ‘East meets West,’ and girl meets boy, it seems like a foreigner (as I am too) has tried to convey a side of your country that isn’t just cliches.

  2. Well, it sounds more like a ‘same same’ story than ‘different’. After 10 years leaving in Asia, I heard at least 100 of these stereotypical stories about white boy falling in love with Asian girl. Since Pocahontas, the scenario is always the same: white guy helps save poor brown girl. How about a change of record?

  3. How about their children? Because she’s got HIV and was wondering if they’ve affected it or not.
    Great story I love it! Actress and actor performed quite well!

  4. @Chanthou: fortunately, their children are fine! 🙂 They were in Cambodia earlier this year (2013) – seen with their little kids. 🙂 That’s a beautiful ending. 🙂

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