In modern Cambodia, a curious cooking tradition still survives today. In popular markets and in some restaurants of the capital Phnom Penh, you can taste fried tarantulas as a delicious and expensive delicacy.
The main site for this trade is the village of Skun, whose inhabitants seem to have started eating tarantulas during Pol Pot’s communist regime to make up for a severe lack of nourishment which characterized that period. The consumption of tarantulas, according to medical traditions, is a remedy for muscular injuries, and this is another reason for its success.
Ignoring the risk to be bit by tarantulas, hunters challenge their fate every day, driving out the spiders from their holes in the ground with a rather approximate technique.
The spider trade in Skun has reached today impressive dimensions. One of the main wholesale dealers supplies twenty to thirty thousand spiders a week, and each seller, every two or three days, has to fry in oil and other spices hundreds of tarantulas to satisfy the customers that pass by on the road that connects the capital to the Angkor Wat temples, the Country’s main tourist site.
The hunting of spiders in the surrounding woods has practically brought to the extinction of this arachnid, so that today in Skun tarantulas are imported from more remote and uncontaminated areas of the country like the virgin forest of Preah Vihear . In this region an ethnic minority changed its traditional hunting activity into spider pickers. To earn a few cents of a euro per day and to be faster to find tarantulas’ holes the Kuy community burns the ground cover with serious consequences for the environment.
Sociological and environmental matters and the bizarre reality of the trade and consumption of this animal, particularly in Skun and in the capital, make Aping … a complex and controversial document, and a mosaic of a reality and a society in rapid change.
DIRECTOR BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE:
Fabio Morotti born in Rome in 13/04/81
He graduates at “Roma Tre” University, studying Cinema, Theatre and Anthropology.
In 2004 he directs a documentary on the subject of the Khmer Dance, titled: “Apsara”; distributed by Insight Media.
In 2005 he produces and directs a short film in Australia, based on a real story, titled: “Una Purusha”.
Living and working in Cambodia for a year, he produces and directs different documentaries:
2005-2006 – “Theatres of Phnom Penh”.
2006 – He directs for the Ngo Cambodian Living Arts (World Education) a documentary on the Siem Reap Shadow Theatre, titled “Sbek Thom”.
2006 – “Aping. A Journey in the Cambodia of Tarantulas”