Annual Chaktomuk Short Film Festival Returns to Phnom Penh

The work of some of the country’s top young filmmakers will take center stage today as the fourth annual Chaktomuk Short Film Festival returns to Phnom Penh.

Organized by the Cambodian film collective Kon Khmer Koun Khmer, this year’s festival selected 22 Cambodian and 25 international short films to be screened, dealing with issues ranging from homosexual relationships to migration.

A screenshot from 'A Fistful of Pebbles'
A screenshot from ‘A Fistful of Pebbles’

The Cambodian films include “Last Chance,” which focuses on a young man who is forced to find work on a Thai fishing vessel to support his family but never returns, and “A Fistful of Pebbles,” about a young man saving his love interest from the clutches of a local thug in the provinces.

A wide range of films from other parts of Asia and the world will also be featured, including “Inside of Me,” which deals with the life of a disabled transgender woman working in the seedy Thai resort town of Pattaya, and “Poor House,” which follows a young couple caught up in debt who encounter terror upon moving to a new area of Seoul.

Prum Seila, president of Kon Khmer Koun Khmer, said that a new generation of Cambodian filmmakers was exploring a broader range of issues and delving into edgier content than ever before.

“In one of the LGBT films they have kissing with men. We’ve never seen this before in Cambodian films. It’s kind of pushing the boundaries…. I believe that when you go into personal things, you have more impact. It gets people to start thinking,” Mr. Seila said.

On Sunday, a panel of Cambodian judges will choose one film to receive a $3,000 prize, while a $700 Audience Award will be voted on by attendees of the festival.

Somchanrith Chap, 23, director of “A Fistful of Pebbles,” said he drew inspiration from his idol, Clint Eastwood, while also trying to tailor the film to a Cambodian audience.

“It was just one of those random talks with your friends one night on your balcony and you go out and you have a cigarette and a few drinks and we thought, you know what, it’d be cool if you could do a Cambodian Western,” Mr. Chap said.

“I just wanted to do something different from young Cambodian filmmakers because they’ve been telling the same stories again and again about poverty and how devastated Cambodia is, and I just wanted to show that there are so many stories in Cambodia that we can tell,” he said.

Films will be screened at the Major Cineplex in Aeon Mall and at the French Institute.

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