Cambodia’s King Sihanouk, who ‘would have rather been Clark Gable’, made more than 50 films

The late Cambodian king, who died in 2011, fell in love with the cinema as a child watching French films. Throughout his 60 years of filmmaking he sought to promote traditional Khmer culture.

Filmmaking in Cambodia has always been a low-key affair – but it does come with the royal seal of approval. That’s because the country’s late King Norodom Sihanouk, who died in 2012 at the age of 89, was a prolific filmmaker who made around 50 films from the 1940s to the 2000s.

Sihanouk’s films, which were shot in 16mm, 35mm, and later on video, covered a range of topics including Cambodian politics, but his main focus was always clear – to promote and preserve traditional Khmer (Cambodian) culture. “I’m not interested in commercialising my films,” he told me in a statement in 1996, “I’m just interested in telling the story, history and culture of the Khmer people.”

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