50 Years Later, Royal Ballet Documentary Makes Premiere

A rare documentary film on Cambodia’s Royal Ballet and the Royal Palace’s school of dance, which was shot between 1960 and 1962 but whose existence was only brought to light last year, will premiere tonight at the In­stitut Fran­cais in Phnom Penh.

The 110-minute documentary, “The Royal Ballet of Cambodia,” was unearthed last year by French filmmaker Serge Viallet while conducting research at the US National Archives and Re­cords Admini­stra­tion in Washing­ton, DC.

The film is believed to have been shot between 1960 and 1962, but no information as to the producers of the film or the crew that worked on it could be found, said Stanislas Touzet, communication manager for the Bophana Audio­visual Re­source Center in Phnom Penh.

Told of the find by Mr. Viallet, the Bophana center contacted the US National Archives and re­quest­ed a copy, said Mr. Touzet, noting that the film appears to have been aimed at a US audience unfamiliar with Cambodia and its dance traditions. The English-language documentary includes classical dance performances by the Royal Ballet, scenes of daily activities at the pa­lace’s dance school, and a performance by a teenage Princess No­ro­dom Buppha Devi.

With support from Unesco, the Bophana center has dubbed the film in Khmer so that the general public can fully enjoy it, Mr. Tou­zet said.

The documentary will be shown tonight at 6:30 p.m. in Khmer with English subtitles at the Institut Francais on Street 184.

Along with the film, excerpts from an extremely rare 1960s au­dio recording of the Reamker—Cam­bodia’s version of the In­dian epic tale Rama­yana—will be presented at the Institut.

Narrated in Khmer by Takrut, a famous storyteller of the time, the recording was made by French mu­sicologist Jacques Brunet in the 1960s, and the 10 hours of audiotapes were recently given to the Bo­phana center by French historian and archivist Alain Daniel, Mr. Tou­zet explained.

The center, with Unesco support, restored the audio tape re­cordings in order to put them on CDs, which turned out to be no small task as time and inclement weather conditions had taken their toll on the tapes, he said.

Copies of the rediscovered documentary film and Takrut’s re­cording will be distributed to schools throughout the country, while CDs of the Reamker story, along with a booklet in French, English and Khmer, will be available at the Institut tonight, Mr. Tou­zet said.

 

 

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