Oscar-nominated Cambodian-French director Rithy Panh has a vivid memory of how he first encountered filmmaking. As a young man, Panh had been studying carpentry in Paris and dabbling in painting. He had moved to France after his family had suffered horrific experiences under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
One of his friends was making a short film inspired by Alfred Hitchcock and had asked Panh to “give him a hand.” This was “just for fun.” Panh helped with the lighting and other chores. Then, one day, the friend’s father gave him “three cartridges of three minute each, contact chrome Super 8.”
Panh used the film to make a short comedy (“very funny”), still his only foray into that genre. He went on to study at renowned French film school, IDHEC. “At the time, most of the young filmmakers in my generation, in my school, liked fiction films – the Nouvelle Vague, Almodovar, John Cassavetes or John Ford.”