Documentary Series Gives Audience ‘Eyes on the World’

The documentary film series “Eyes on the World,” which starts screening tonight and runs through Sunday at the Institut Francais in Phnom Penh, features works that tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the human race.

The program includes “We Come as Friends” about Sudan, a country split in two, rife with tension and being courted by both China and the U.S.; “Mograbi Cinema,” a look at the journey of controversial anti-Zionist Israeli filmmaker Avi Mograbi; and “Last of the Elephant Men” about ethnic Bunong people in eastern Cambodia whose way of life is threatened by rapid deforestation.

A still from the film 'Last of the Elephant Men'
A still from the film ‘Last of the Elephant Men’

While the films deal with topics that are often covered by the media or discussed online, they do so in a way that is unique to film, said Cecile Peyronnet, cultural attache at the French Embassy. “There is a complex cinematographic approach that one cannot find on the Internet or Facebook,” she said.

One example is the documentary “I Am the People” about an Egyptian farmer who, through watching television, closely follows developments triggered by the country’s peaceful revolution of 2011. Filmmaker Anna Roussillon accumulated 300 hours of film in order to produce the 111-minute documentary, said Frederic Violeau, a member of the documentary film producers’ association Lumiere du monde, which is taking part in the event.

“It will have taken four to five years to make that film…because the filmmaker took the time to see it develop, took the time to film so it would connect with the character, and took the time to edit in order to build a piece according to high aesthetic standard,” he said.

A still from the film 'We Come as Friends'
A still from the film ‘We Come as Friends’

Most films will be shown at the Institut Francais, except for “Remnance of Madness” about Senegalese writer and filmmaker Khady Sylla that will be presented at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, and “Beltracchi, the Art of Forgery” about a famous art forger, which will be shown at Meta House. All films have English subtitles.

The event is part of the Asiadoc project, which aims to teach Southeast Asian documentary filmmakers how to fund and market their films.

“The new generation, as it ages, even though they now are in the immediacy of new media, will need the feeling of a production that goes beyond the instantaneous,” Mr. Violeau said.

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