Bitter Melons


BITTER MELONS was born out of love for Cambodian food and the need to explore pain as the catalyst for growth. In such dark times, the challenge is not letting pain destroy us, but rather finding ways to transmute that strife into something beautiful.


The Team —


Thavary Krouch

Writer, Director & Producer


Herman Asph

Director of Photography


Jess Wright

Executive Producer


Felix Pineiro



David Deutsch



Spence Warren

Production Designer


Daniel Lamkin

Director & Producer


Maria Roxas



Corey Gilbert



John Wong

Sound Designer 





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The Cast —


Pisay pao

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Channy chhi laux

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theavuth chourb

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Japhet balaban

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Hector Vargas

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chef arun

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Bitter Melons was conceived when writer-director Thavary Krouch was undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma, and especially craving her mother’s bitter melon soup. She found herself reflecting upon her cultural heritage as a Cambodian-American, and the rift in her relationship with her father. Following her recovery, she set about writing and developing the short narrative film about Sophia, a young woman who, as Krouch puts it, “learns to embrace life, rather than run away from it.”

The family drama takes place partly in the culinary world, where Sophia works as a line cook, and the story is infused with a love of Cambodian food and simultaneously explores Sophia’s pain. The film culminates in an emotionally-wrought intertwining of these two themes as Sophia must ultimately overcome her doubts and self-loathing to find her true self.

As a documentary filmmaker, Krouch explains that though always attracted to the narrative form, she knew she could not work in the medium until she was ready. “It had to be a story where I felt no other choice but to make it,” she explains. Drawing upon her desire to see Cambodian-American representations on-screen, and particularly ones that were centered in the narrative, she set about populating the world of “Bitter Melons” with actors Pisay Pao (“Z Nation”), newcomer Channy Chhi Laux, and Tae Chourb (“Chicago PD”), and imbued the script with experiences familiar to the community, such as the toll of war on families.
— Women and Hollywood
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