Swimming to Cambodia

Swimming To Cambodia

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Swimming to Cambodia

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Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia is a 1987 Jonathan Demme-directed performance film. The film is a performance of Spalding Gray's monologue which centered around such themes as his trip to Southeast Asia to create the role of the U.S. Ambassador's aide in The Killing Fields, the Cold War, Cambodia Year Zero and his search for his "perfect moment". The film grossed slightly over a million dollars.


Swimming to Cambodia was originally a theatre piece on which Gray spent two years working. The original running time of the performance was four hours long and took place over two nights. Swimming to Cambodia won Gray an Obie award.

In 2001, Gray took Swimming to Cambodia back to the stage in Los Angeles, Chicago and Albany, New York.


The opening shots of the film depict Gray walking toward The Performing Garage in New York. He goes in and after walking in past the audience, he takes his seat behind a table. On the table is a glass of water, a microphone and a notebook which Gray brought with him. Behind him are two pulldown maps. One is a map of Southeast Asia and the other is a diagram of the bombing of Cambodia, which Gray tells the viewers/audience was called Operation Menu. There is also back-lit projection screen which has projected on it a picture of a beach.

The soundtrack for this film was composed and performed by Laurie Anderson, who would also score Gray's follow-up film, Monster in a Box. Gray returned the favor by providing the voice...
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