Auckland filmmaker's animation captures refugee dad's life under Khmer Rouge

A new short film has been released, telling the story of an Auckland-based refugee.

Isiah Tour used his passion for animation and filmmaking to tell the story about his father's life during the time of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Despite living together for more than 20 years, the animator says he grew up not knowing much about his father.

Isiah's dad worked long shifts in a factory, meaning they barely got to see each other, and, as Isiah spoke mainly English and his father spoke mainly Cambodian, when they did see each other they barely spoke.

Childhood milestones were filmed by his mother, so his father wouldn't have to miss out completely.

In 2017, Isiah decided to turn the camera around and get to know his father, making a short film out of what he discovered.

"We've lived together for almost 25 years," said the filmmaker. "I feel like I don't really know much about you."

As he pulled back the layers of his father's history, Isiah was taken aback by just how tough Huat's childhood was, and how close he came to becoming a victim of the Khmer Rouge.

"As a kid, you don't get told certain things because you're protected. But when you find them out you realise what they've been through, and why they are who they are."

The Khmer Rouge was the name given to followers of the Cambodian Communist Party led by Pol Pot, who orchestrated a genocide that killed an estimated 3 million people.

Huat witnessed death and lost close friends in terrible ways, all before he was 16 years old. He eventually made it to a refugee camp, before being taken in by New Zealand.

He's had the same job for 40 years - at a box factory working the evening shift, something that both Isiah and Huat agree created a barrier between them.

The animator and filmmaker said making the film allowed him and his father to talk and learn more about each other.

Isiah is 25 now, and is planning more film projects. But none will be as special to him as the one about his father - a father he now knows better than ever.