Cambodia’s Selfie Obsession Reflected in Black Comedy Film

For a person obsessed with taking selfies, having his or her arms forever stretched to get one’s own portrait, what would be the ultimate nightmare?

Sophea, the main character in Khmer Mekong Film’s (KMF) latest movie “King Selfie,” confronts one possibility when former friends trap him in a “hall of mirrors,” where he is surrounded by his distorted image reproduced hundreds of times in a dark room lit by spurts of light and filled with screeching sounds.

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Actor Khat Sombath Ketya shoots a scene for ‘King Selfie’ in a hall of mirrors in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

This scene, from the upcoming black comedy scheduled for release around the Water Festival in November, took 12 hours to film. The result will be a two- to three-minute sequence that involved weeks of research in order to conceive the unusual set.

As KMF set designer Ki Kin explained on Friday, the challenge started with the mirrors. “I found many kinds of mirror-type products,” he said. But they had to be made of a material one could slice and assemble into hundreds of facets so that Sophea—played by well-known television actor MC Khat Sombath Ketya—would see himself simultaneously as tall and short, fat and thin, his face elongated or swollen.

Mr. Kin eventually opted for a plasticized reflective product that could easily be cut and bent. “I tried to find it in Cambodia but in the end, I had to order from outside the country, from China,” he said.

Filming in a hall of mirrors proved tricky, as the camera could not be seen, said Matthew Robinson, KMF executive producer. So a space just big enough for the lens to get through was made in the circular room with some shots taken from above, as the set did not go up to the ceiling. “Technically, it’s been the most difficult scene I’ve shot in years,” he said on Monday.

The entire film shoot is expected to take four-and-a-half weeks.

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A technician monitors the filming of a scene featuring actor Khat Sombath Ketya in ‘King Selfie,’ in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The idea for the film came to Mr. Robinson one evening when he found himself in a cafe where just about every person was taking a selfie. When he walked out onto Sisowath Quay, scores of people were busy doing the same thing, he said. “I thought, we have to do a movie about this subject.”

This worldwide phenomenon is such that in some Scandinavian countries, selfie lanes have been added next to regular pedestrian ones. “So if you don’t want to be annoyed by people taking selfies, you go into the selfie-free lane. It’s unbelievable,” Mr. Robinson said. “So it really is a current aspect of life which we’re hoping to cover with our movie.”

As in many films, the story involves a great deal of “girl loves boy who loves another.” But it’s also about honesty in relationships as Sophea’s selfie craze is a symptom reflecting his selfishness. “It’s a black comedy. There is a lot of humor in it,” Mr. Robinson said. “But it has a real strong message about not getting obsessed with yourself.”

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