Cambodians growing tired of imported Thai and Chinese television action dramas can tune in to traditional Cambodian shows, thanks to television station CTN, which has begun contracting Cambodian film makers to produce several mini-series.
The mini-series have been airing for almost two months and have gotten a positive response from Cambodia’s struggling production companies and an audience keen on seeing home-grown acting talent.
“I hope CTN will be a leader in showing Cambodian movies,” CTN station spokesman Un Bun Thol said.
Korm Chanty, owner and director of French Cambodia International Production, said his company has created four 10-episode mini-series for CTN.
The series are love stories, he said, in a mixture of modern and traditional Cambodian settings.
“Trey Kaon Snei” (Love Triangle), “Kmean Beduong” (No Heart) and “Mak Phou, Yuong Keo,” which is named after two characters, have aired already.
A fourth, “Karkei,” a traditional Khmer story about a husband and wife, is also named for one of its characters. It remains in post-production.
“I want Cambodian television to show Cambodian movies instead of foreign ones,” Korm Chanty said. He added, “Otherwise, I won’t earn any money making them.”
Un Bun Thol said he is optimistic about a revival of the Cambodian film industry, noting that the quality of Cambodian film making has improved markedly.
In addition to the Cambodian mini-series, CTN began to compete with two other Thai-owned local television stations when it began broadcasting Khmer kickboxing matches two weeks ago from its Russei Keo district studio.
Government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, have repeatedly asked in recent years for more Cambodian-produced movies and television shows.
In January, just days before the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots, Hun Sen ordered TV5 to stop running a Thai-made television series that featured a popular actress who, in real life, was falsely accused of saying Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.
Chea Sophara, then the governor of Phnom Penh, followed that by ordering the municipality-run TV3 to stop broadcasting all Thai programming.
CTN, which is owned by the same combination of Swedish and Cambodian companies that owns MobiTel, has tried to focus on more traditional Cambodian programs than other stations.
When it was founded in March, officials said CTN would spend more than $1 million on programming in 2003.
Other television stations say they would broadcast more locally made programming if they had a larger budget.
“We don’t have a lot of money to buy movies to show on our station,” said Sok Ey San, general director of rival Apsara TV.
“I actually want to air Cambodian movies also, but we can’t [afford] to do it,” he said. Apsara TV currently shows Indian and Chinese movies, he said.
Korm Chanty said he normally earns about $60,000 for producing a mini-series.
“We pay a similar amount to produce movies for television and for theaters,” he said, “but we can earn much more profit from movies in theaters, because we can both sell tickets and produce the movies on VCD for sale locally or abroad.”
Currently, Korm Chanty’s company is under contract with CTN. But when that contract ends Korm Chanty said he hopes to work with other stations as well. CTN’s Cambodian mini-series air on Wednesday and Thursday , at 7:30 and 8 pm.