In 2014, Jake Wachtel moved to Cambodia to teach a year-long class in filmmaking to children as part of the ‘Filmmakers Without Borders’ initiative. After collaborating with several young Cambodian filmmakers on short films, Wachtel wrote and directed the first Cambodian science-fiction film, Karmalink. Karmalink was selected as the opening film for Venice Critics’ Week and has screened at the Austin Film Festival and Glasgow Film Festival.
Wachtel cited Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro as an inspiration for Karmalink, particularly the novel’s use of the science fiction genre to interrogate issues involving society’s marginalized communities. He thought about the possibilities of Karmalink’s story taking place in a Cambodian neighborhood instead of a British boarding school.
“Sci-fi is a genre that has this amazing potential for us to imagine futures and talk about social justice issues, socio-political issues. Yet you find that there’s not a lot of sci-fi movies coming out of a place like Cambodia or Southeast Asia,” Wachtel says. “There’s something sort of elitist in how the genre plays out, that sci-fi only belongs in a place like Silicon Valley or something like this.”