Cambodian Cinema Takes Center Stage at Film Festival

Cambodia will be in the spotlight during this week’s second Cam­bodia International Film Festival, as most of the feature films shown in Phnom Penh’s theaters starting Thursday will be movies that are either about the country or will have been filmed here.

“The goal of the festival is for Cambodians to rediscover cinema, and the richness of cinema,” said Stanislas Touzet, communications director for the Bophana Audio­visual Resource Center, which is organizing the festival in cooperation with the Cambodian Film Com­mission (CFC) and the Institut Francais.

“The idea is for new generations to explore a cinema different from the Hollywood blockbusters now shown in Phnom Penh—which is great, by the way—and from those airing on Cambodian television,” Mr. Touzet said.

At last year’s film festival, there were only one or two films shot here

that could be shown, whereas this year about five or six films of international standards will be presented, said Cedric Eloy, head of the CFC, which promotes the country as a movie location and helps train film technical staff.

According to Mr. Eloy, the number of film production projects shot in the country has about quadrupled in the past year and this is reflected in the festival’s line up.

One of the festival’s highlights is “Shiiku, The Catch,” the latest film of Cambodia’s internationally re­nowned director Rithy Panh. “Shiiku” is about a US bomber pilot shot down in 1972 over Cambodia and subsequently captured by Khmer Rouge soldiers who assigned teen­age boys to guard him.

“This was the first time that a feature film with international financing was produced with a Cambodian crew,” Mr. Eloy said of “Shiiku.”

In the past, foreigners mostly led the various film crews, while this time the crew was nearly all Cam­bo­dians based in the country, he said.

And in another first: Belgian director Chantal Akerman’s movie “Al­mayer’s Folly” has local Cambodian actors in prominent roles instead of the bit parts and work as extras they usually get, Mr. Eloy said.

“Almayer’s Folly” takes place in Malaysia but was shot in Koh Kong

province, which will mark Koh Kong’s debut on the big screen, Mr. Eloy added.

The festival will also hold the international premiere of the documentary “The Disappearance of Mac Kinley Nolan” produced by award-winning US actor Danny Glover. The Ministry of Culture’s film “Kiles,” also on the program, is Cambodia’s biggest budget movie in a long while. French-Cambodian Davy Chou’s documentary “Golden Slumbers” about Cambodia’s movies in the 1960s will be shown for the first time in Cambodia at the festival.

And as part of the tribute to Cambodian filmmaker Yvon Hem, one of the country’s leading directors in the 1960s, the festival will present his 2004 film “Rumduol Angkor.”

During the festival’s four days of screenings, 90 feature films, documentaries and animated movies will be shown in venues ranging from the Legend Cinemas and The Cineplex, to cinemas at the Institut Francais and the Bophana Center. There also will be outdoor screenings at Koh Pich island. All screenings are free.



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