The Rent Collector is a sobering look at the families that live and try to survive by living around the municipal dump, Stung Meanchey, in Phnom Penh. Although fiction, Camron Wright uses people in his son's documentary to bring life his characters.
Sang Ly and her husband collect recyclables from the dump to sell (and sometimes fat snails that live in the water during rainy season to eat) which in turn provides their living, rice to eat , water that has to be purchased and rent for the ramshackle covering they call home. The rent collector for their hovel, Sopeap, is almost always drunk when she shows up to collect the rent and with little empathy demands the rent paid timely if they wish to avoid eviction. Through her desire to provide a better life for her son who is sickly, Sang Ly works out an arrangement with the rent collector to teach her to read. Through their interaction Sang Ly learns more about the drunken rent collector who was once an English professor.
Sopeap encourages Sang Ly to read literature instead of the scraps of paper and labels she finds at the dump and they read the story of Sarann (Cambodian's version of Cinderella)
Sopeap tells Sang Ly:
If we expect our personal lives to always end with a handsome prince, most of us will close our books with shattered dreams.
On the other hand if we treat these tales as simple entertainment we miss the deepest most life changing aspects of the stories and grow cynical.