The lights dimmed, the music began and for the next five minutes a crowd of about 400 people watched a film by two young Cambodian filmmakers on the importance of girls’ education.
“Stand Up Girls” by Reasey Mi, 18, and Chenda Sout, 17, opened this year’s Angkor Wat International Film Festival, which is now in its third year.
“I want to tell the world the story about the girls in Cambodia and share with them the problems in Cambodia,” Ms. Mi said before the screening. “If I [just] say it, I just say it to the people around me. The world cannot see.”
The festival’s opening night drew a crowd nearly double the size of last year’s, though some movies screened over the weekend had an audience closer to a few dozen. For three days, the festival featured more than 30 movies, mostly in English, ranging from a documentary about disappearing icebergs, to an amateur film about a gay Cambodian-American man who marries Cambodian women for money, to a dizzying display of acrobatics in 3-D.
But while the films were set in locales as far flung as Canada, and their themes ranged from issues of culture to climate change, the festival’s most consistent focus was on children and how they relate to film.
For the first time, two animated children’s movies were added to the festival’s lineup. More than one hundred children were brought to the opening night by the Ponheary Ly Foundation, which offers filmmaking classes for students like Ms. Mi.
On opening night, shortly after the screening of “Stand Up Girls,” Rathanak Hok, 14, put on 3-D glasses for the first time and was sucked into the colorful world of Cirque de Soleil acrobats and performers.
“It tightened his heart,” said Sokha Khoun, the teenager’s media teacher at the Ponheary Ly Foundation, who translated for him. “He felt it was so exciting.”
It’s the interest of the young Cambodians that has, in part, allowed the festival to continue, said Fabrice Ducry, the general manager of the Sofitel Hotel, which sponsors the event along with The Cambodia Daily.
Many rural Cambodians have limited opportunities to use cameras and computers with editing software to tell their stories, but that does not mean their stories cannot be screened, Mr. Ducry said.
“There is a lot of intensity and emotion in them,” he said. “Through screen and images, you can share so much emotion.”