Film Industry Eyes Rebirth

No one ever asked actress Chun Khannara what she might like to make a movie about. So the 16-year-old, who debuted as an angel in April’s “God Court,” drew a blank at the question.

After asking her uncle, famous filmmaker Ly Bun Yim, for assistance, she said: “One day, I will make my own story, but not yet.”

The poised girl read a prepared statement with a tiny voice at a cinema conference Saturday at Pannasastra University.

She represented a Cambodian movie industry trying for a renaissance, learning of its international marketability and seeking direction. During the last two weeks, Pan­nasastra hosted one of Cam­bo­dia’s first film festivals since the 1960s, said Raymond Leos, dean of communications.

The conference Saturday was part of the university’s plan to develop training in radio, television and film over the next two years. To reap benefits of major Hollywood productions such as “Tomb Raider,” which was shot in 2000 in Siem Reap, Cambodia needs a core group of “techies,” Raymond Leos said.

Cambodians have received training on some projects. When KM Lo directed “Moto Thief” in Cam­bodia, he trained five people in production. A British Broad­casting Corporation project is training Cambo­dians for a television series that begins filming this year.

But the country lacks a studio system, said Nick Ray, a film location scout and director.

For that, local filmmakers need costly digital equipment, said Ly Bun Yim, who is producing one of the country’s most expensive films with $700,000. They also need updated stories, he said.

“Most of the current movie productions just re-film the old stories from Khmer literature,” he said. “The old producers already filmed that in the 1960s.”

To find stories, Lisa Miller, who runs the television production company FIT Media, said she encourages Cambodians she works with to discover what they think about their own society.

“They know what they’re supposed to think,” she said. “But when it comes to social and political resonance, they don’t know.”

(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)


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