Animated Film Festival to Showcase Foreign, Local Work

Animation is not a technique for commitment-phobes. With affordable software available on the internet, dabblers can easily pick up the basics—but mastering the required skills takes complete dedication.

This weekend, an animation film festival in Phnom Penh will screen the works of those dedicated and skilled enough to make it to the top, alongside local animation students hoping to join their ranks.

Son Sreyneang works on her animated short film “Water & Forest” at the Visual and Applied Art School in Battambong City in April. (Coralie Baudet)
Son Sreyneang works on her animated short film “Water & Forest” at the Visual and Applied Art School in Battambong City in April. (Coralie Baudet)

The festival, hosted by Institut Francais, will showcase 18 international short films given awards over the past five years at France’s Annecy Film Festival, the largest animation film festival in the world. It will also screen three feature films, with two of them—“The Red Turtle” and “My Life as a Zucchini”—awarded at Cannes this year.

And during a special segment on Saturday at 5 p.m., the festival will present 14 of the best short student films selected from the Visual and Applied Arts School (VAAS) in Battambang City, one of the few art schools in Cambodia with an animation program.

The school has a three-year program that teaches young Cambodians all the skills needed to be animators, free of charge. Students in the program practice diligently with the hope of turning their craft into a career after graduation.

Twenty-year-old animator Son Sreyneang discovered her dream of becoming a “famous,” world-class animator while at VAAS and decided she had a chance to make it happen.

“If I didn’t study hard and dedicate myself, I realized I couldn’t be an animator,” Ms. Sreyneang said.

After learning how to use multiple software programs and developing her own style of drawing, Ms. Sreyneang became proficient in making her own 2D animations.

In her final year of the program, her capstone project was a two-minute animated film. She was inspired to make her film about protecting natural resources after witnessing local villagers burning down forests.

“I focus on the environment, which is the forest and the water,” she said. “My animations don’t focus on garbage. They focus on the environment. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

She made her animated short—titled “Water & Forest”—about a boy chasing a rain cloud in the desert and how a single drop of water produces a fruit-bearing tree.

The film is a simple story. But the comical way the boy interacts with the cloud shows how animation is the perfect medium for expressing the fruits of Ms. Sreyneang’s imagination. She draws thinly lined characters surrounded by a cascade of layered textures.

The festival begins at 5 p.m. on Friday with screenings of eight shorts from the Annecy Film Festival, followed by “The Red Turtle” at 7 p.m. The festival ends on Saturday night with a screening of feature-length “Phantom Boy” at 7 p.m. Each session costs $2.

(Additional reporting by Sek Odom)

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