Brother Number One

  • Best of 2012

    As 2012 draws to a close we are thrilled to be mentioned on Graeme Tuckett's list of favourite films and to be featured on The Best Films of the Year in the NZ Herald today!

    This quote from Graeme really resonates with what we set out to create:

    'The word harrowing doesn't really apply. It's not a harrowing documentary at all. It's an extraordinarily uplifting documentary that will show you just the absolute best and the absolute worst of human nature....I've watched it maybe 3 or 4 times now. It never fails to move me to tears.' - Graeme Tuckett, Favourites of 2012, Nine to Noon on Radio NZ

    If you're in NZ and looking for a last minute Christmas gift please do get in touch with us as Rob can arrange last minute postage.

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  • Cambodia Premiere

    In some ways signalling the completion of a chapter, Brother Number One had its premiere screenings in Phnom Penh in late October. Rob attended all the screenings to intro the film and it was such a privilage to have all three screenings of the film.

    Thanks so much to Clair Duffy at the Open Society Foundation and to Mark Servian and Michael Miller for the photos. Read about us in the Phnom Penh Post here.

    The audience at the Meta House

    Rob introduces the film at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center

    The wonderful Kulikar and her mother who lost a father/husband and whose story is told in the film.

    More photos on Facebook here


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  • Vann Nath

    I write with great sadness  to tell you that Cambodian painter and S21 (Toul Sleng prison) survivor Mr Vann Nath died yesterday 5.9.11 aged 65.

    Vann Nath is best known for his paintings depicting graphic scenes of torture and dehumanization that went on within the walls of S21.  He also did two paintings for me.  The first, on my request, was of a photo of my brother Kerry and his girlfriend Gail on board Foxy Lady.  The second very poignant painting was produced on Nath’s insistence.  It is an image of how he remembers seeing my brother being escorted into the prison by a young guard.

    Painting by Vann Nath

    'People died one after another, and at about 10 to 11 pm the corpse would be removed, and we ate our meal next to the dead body and we did not care anyway because we were like animals,' he said. 'I lost my dignity.'

    Mr Vann Nath was the first witness to take the stand in the trial of Duch.  He told the court that he wanted 'something that is intangible: that is justice for those that already died.'

    'I hope that by the end of the tribunal that justice can be tangible, can be seen by everybody,' he said.

    Vann Nath had a unique way of dealing with the past horrors.  In the few meetings I had with him he resonated calmness and dignity.  Even when discussing the terrible treatment he experienced he did not openly display his anger.  Vann Nath’s character is beautifully captured in probably the most poignant moment in Brother Number One.

    My thoughts are the Vann family and the remaining known survivors of S21, Mr Chum May, Mr Bou Meng and Mr Norn Chanphal.

    - Rob Hamill

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  • The finishing touches at Park Road Post

    A message from Rob sent from the coalface at Park Road Post:



    21 June 2011:
    So Peter Jackson (we fondly refer to him as PJ) didn't front today but sent his apologies and love (well, I'm sure he would have had he know we were there!) What an amazing facility. Spent the day going over the sound edit, making sure music not over powering voice overs, narrations etc. The film looks amazing on the big screen and sounds terrific in the theartre setting. Annie Goldson and Peter Gilbert doing great work.




    22 June 2011:
    Back at the coal face at Park Road Post (PJ sure to make an appearance anytime soon) and currently watching on film Meas Muth, the former chief of the Khmer Rouge navy. He's the man who had the power to release my brother immediately following his capture. Seeing this man on the screen makes my blood boil.



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  • Rob calls for ex-pat Cambodians to file for Civil Party status in the ECCC

    Recent events surrounding the United Nations-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (“ECCC”) have motivated Olympic and trans-Atlantic rower Rob Hamill’s call for diasporas and expat Cambodians to apply for Civil Party status at the court.

    “I am deeply concerned about overt political influence and the recent announcement by the two Co-Investigating Judges (CIJs) to close investigations into case 003.  This means that any victims who wish to file complaints to the court for this case must to do so by 18 May 2011.”

    Even though the ECCC has not yet disclosed the names of the persons under investigation, on 8 April 2011, exactly one month ago, Hamill became the second person (after Khmer Rouge survivor Theary Seng) to apply to become a Civil Party in Cases 003 and 004 against the five individuals believed to be under investigation by the ECCC Office of the CIJ’s, in particular against military commanders Mr Meas Muth and Mr Sou Met who commanded the Khmer Rouge Navy and Air Force respectively.

    Hamill claims these two individuals committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including forced transfer, imprisonment (including severe deprivation of physical liberty), enslavement, torture, murder, and other inhumane acts. Rob Hamill’s brother Kerry was abducted by the Khmer Rouge navy in 1978 when his yacht strayed into Cambodian waters.  He was taken prisoner at Toul Sleng prison in Phnom Penh where he was tortured and murdered.

    “Rather than ramp up the investigations on behalf of the millions of victims and despite a mountain of evidence it seems the CIJs’ response to our applications is to cease any further enquiries into the heinous crimes these people committed," says Hamill.  “It makes me wonder how much political influence is being wielded in Cambodia and what do the court’s funders’ think of the situation.”

    With the deadline looming in less than 10 days time Hamill is concerned people are not aware of their rights and the opportunity that exists. “It should be the court’s obligation to inform victims about the deadline from the date of closing investigations,” said Hamill, “However, since it is not, this announcement hopes to raise the message for victims who want to put applications in for cases 003 and 004. If ever there was a time for the expat Cambodian community to speak up then this is it,” said Hamill.  “Whether you live in Hamilton, New Zealand or London,  New York, or Paris, now is the time to make contact with the court in Cambodia and be heard.”

    The Victim Support Section ( is the body within the court that receives and processes victims’ application forms.

    For further information please contact Rob Hamill +64 (0)274 936677 or

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  • Rob takes the fight into his own hands

    Between 1975 and 1979 more than 1,700,000 people were murdered, starved or worked to death under the rule of the Khmer Rouge regime, yet only one man has stood trial for the atrocities. On the 26th of July 2010, Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch) was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his crimes as commandant of S-21 (aka Tuol Sleng), the Phnom Penh prison where approximately 14,000 people were tortured and murdered.

    The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is close to beginning the trial of four of the other high-ranking Khmer Rouge leaders. However, investigations into a third trial for five additional suspects are currently in limbo, largely due to overt political interference and UN lethargy.

    On Friday, the 8th of April 2011, Rob Hamill lodged a civil party application against Khmer Rouge commanders Meas Muth and Sou Met, two of five individuals believed to be under investigation. Rob’s is the second civil suit submitted to the ECCC, the first being from Cambodian human rights activist and Khmer Rouge survivor, Theary Seng (

    “I am doing this to remind the UN and its member countries that justice has not yet been served,” says Rob. “Just what is the magic number to cease further proceedings? Among the hundreds, if not thousands of killers, trying five is not enough, and pushing for an additional five prosecutions is not unreasonable. It’s akin to halting the Nuremburg Trials after only a few convictions. The world would not have accepted that outcome, yet now the victims of these heinous and incomprehensible atrocities are expected to accept one conviction (Duch), and a trial pending for four others, knowing that at least five more culpable cadres remain un- charged.”

    Rob said he is also submitting his application to support Theary Seng’s one. “She is a very brave woman who deserves to be heard above the deafening silence.”

    Rob is holding Meas and Sou personally, individually, criminally responsible for the death of his brother Kerry. Particular emphasis is given to Meas, commander of the Khmer Rouge navy, which captured of Kerry, moored off Koh Tang Island, on the 13th of August 1978. Kerry was tortured, forced confess that he was a CIA operative, then executed.

    “One of my concerns lays in the fact that the cases against Meas and Sou appear to be dormant, or will be dropped. This is not good enough. It harks back to the cold war politics of the time, when many countries still recognised Khmer Rouge leadership at the UN. This included New Zealand. My father, Miles, wrote many letters, petitioning our government. In one, he wrote, Mr Muldoon Sir, if you can faintly understand the shock and grief I and my family are suffering over this ghastly affair, then you will surely do all in your power as the Head of New Zealand’s governing body to investigate my son’s death. Why has New Zealand ever recognised the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea? To recognise them must surely condone their actions as a Government?

    “The recognition of the Khmer Rouge’s leadership was politically driven and was totally unacceptable to my father,” says Rob. “If the ECCC drops the cases against Meas and Sou, this will be equally unacceptable.

    “The family members of Khmer Rouge victims are not alone in their grief and suffering. I am not a Cambodian national, but I am a victim of its politics. I hope this application motivates others to stand up and say what needs to be said. All former Khmer Rouge leaders under investigation must stand trial, and be exposed for the part they played in the death of 1,700,000 people.”

    Listen to Rob on Radio New Zealand.

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  • We didn't sink, which was nice

    Gail and Kerry on Foxy Lady

    Arrived home in the early hours after an attempt to sail across the Tasman Sea last week from Sydney to Whangarei. Unfortunately, on day two the yacht started taking on water, lots of water, so diverted to Lord Howe Island and we didn't sink which was nice. It was a bit of a shame actually because it had been such a lovely trip to that point with vomit inducing seas hitting us right on the nose.

    It reminded me of an interview we did for the film with Englishmen Neil and Bob, who chartered Foxy Lady with Kerry and Gail. They said the time spent with them was the best of their year-long travel adventure. However, they also mentioned that they 'fed the fish' on more than one occasion whilst sailing between ports.

    So it was an expensive unplanned flight for me from Lord Howe Island but was happy to arrive home yesterday in one piece. It was lovely to see Rachel and the kids. Hugs all round. - Rob.


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  • Rob shares his journey at TEDxChCh

    Late last year I had the privilege of giving a TED talk in Christchurch. I was invited by Kaila Colbin, whom I had met at a Climate Project seminar in 2009 in Melbourne.

    TED ( stands for Technology Education Design and its strap line is ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’. Presentations go for 10-20 min, are streamed live on the net and remain available for public viewing online.

    Rather than speak on rowing the Atlantic, which is the norm for me, I was asked to talk about my brother's story, Cambodia and the film, Brother Number One.


    I knew immediately that I would accept the invitation, but deep down I was anxious. I had given a few talks on Kerry in recent months, but they weren't going out on the web for all to see.

    Whatever I delivered would need to be succinct, entertaining and have a strong message. But it would also need to be delivered without faltering. I couldn’t guarantee I would tick any of the boxes but it was the ‘without faltering’ one that I was most concerned about. In previous speeches about Kerry, I had had to take a moment to control my emotions, at some point. In particular in speaking of my parents' pain it sometimes choked me up completely, and I'd be unable to continue for a few breaths. This has proven to be a sticking point many a time in the film, as well. Whenever I found myself discussing my parents, following Annie’s questioning, it would deeply affect me.

    TEDxCHCH had a line up of extraordinary people, telling unique and fascinating stories. The day was nothing short of inspiring. I was second to last and hearing the enlightened, and often hilarious speakers did nothing for my nerves.

    I wanted the speech to make people consider what they would do in a similar situation to me.

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  • Rob Hamill at TEDxChCh - On Forgiveness

    Rob Hamill made sporting history as a New Zealand International rowing representative for 16 years, with accomplishments that include World Championship silver, Commonwealth gold, and a world record on the indoor rowing machine. In 1978, a charter yacht under the command of Rob’s “brother number one” Kerry strayed into Cambodian waters. Kerry was subsequently imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the Khmer Rouge. Rob has since travelled to Cambodia to find answers for his family and, reaching beyond personal pain, for Cambodia. In July this year he watched as his brother’s jailor was sentenced to 35 years in prison. “I just want to understand him”, says Rob.

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  • Hamill returns to Cambodia for Duch verdict

    Kiwi rower Rob Hamill will return to Cambodia at the end of July to hear the verdict in the trial of Comrade Duch, the Khmer Rouge commander of Tuol Sleng prison where Rob’s brother, Kerry, was tortured and killed in late 1978.

    Rob’s presence at the Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) for the verdict on the 26th July comes almost a year after he testified there as a ‘Civil Party’ representative. Speaking as one of many that suffered losses at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Rob gave testimony exactly 31 years after Kerry and Englishman John Dewhirst were snatched from their storm-blown yacht. A third sailor Canadian Stuart Glass was killed on the spot. Kerry and John were tortured for up to two months at ‘Tuol Sleng’ (also known as ‘S21’) and forced to falsely confess they were CIA spies, before being executed on the orders of Pol Pot. 14,000 Cambodians met a similar fate at the prison. Rob’s statement, like that of the other Civil Parties, was intended to influence the sentencing of Duch.

    Rob believes that the sentencing is crucial to Cambodia’s recovery as a nation: “There is a saying in Cambodia, ‘Transform the River of Blood into a River of Reconciliation’.  Nearly two million Cambodians were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979,” said Hamill. “I only hope that this verdict brings some sense of justice to those who have suffered so much and waited so long.”

    Rob’s story is the subject of ‘Brother Number One’, a film produced by Annie Goldson, James Bellamy and Rob for BNO Productions/Pan Pacific Films. The documentary is intended for theatrical and broadcast release in New Zealand and worldwide, and is funded by NZ on Air, TV3, and the NZ Film Commission. Annie, an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland who has received multiple awards for her earlier films, is also directing, with Academy Award-winner Peter Gilbert and Kiwi Jake Bryant sharing the cinematographer credit.

    The Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia is under joint Cambodian and UN jurisdiction. Former New Zealand Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright is one the two international judges who, along with three Cambodian judges, will decide Duch’s fate. See for more info.

    Rob Hamill is widely known for winning the first-ever Trans-Atlantic Rowing Race in 1997 with the late Phil Stubbs. He currently works as a motivational speaker, as an organiser of ‘The Great Race’ international rowing event on the Waikato River. He has also been elected to the WEL Energy Trust and campaigns for environmental causes.

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  • Before taking off to London - Rob Hamill

    Well, I’m in the ‘as you’d expect’ chaos mode at the moment. Nearly ready to get in the car and head north to the big smoke (Auckland, of course) and board my plane destined for London, England to hook up with Annie Goldson and Peter Gilbert.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have played a significant role already in helping us get this far. The Cambodian community based in New Zealand have been incredibly helpful and generous but a particular mention at this point must go to Chakara Lim. He has been a pivotal person in helping us make contact with community leaders and has shown us the active and colourful culture thriving here in New Zealand.

    I can’t emphasis enough how important this project is in reminding the world, lest we forget, of the atrocities in Cambodia. I was reminded today of this very issue whilst having a hair cut. I had to ask for a specific cut (#4 on sides etc) so that it’s consistent each time we film. I was asking how best to achieve this and in their inquisitiveness the two hairdressers in ear shot naturally asked why. When I got to mentioning Pol Pot by name they said, “Who?” They didn’t know anything about the Khmer Rouge either. Yet they knew plenty about Adolf Hitler. If I had said Pol Pot was the Adolf Hitler of Cambodia they would have immediately understood. As it is many people around the world have a similar lack of understanding of the recent history of this country.

    This needs to be told in the hope that it doesn’t happen again.

    - Rob Hamill

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