The first ever Cambodian film featuring a lesbian love story has attracted about 4,000 moviegoers in less than a week after opening at Phnom Penh’s Luxe Cinema, the movie’s screenwriter said Monday.
The two-hour film, “Who Am I?” tells the story of a Cambodian-American girl who becomes infatuated with a famous Cambodian actress. After she successfully tracks down the performer’s phone number, the two fall in love over a series of long-distance phone calls, and the American girl travels to Cambodia to meet the star.
“I did not expect to have so many moviegoers interested in watching this film,” Phoan Phuong Bopha, who wrote the film and is the director of Five Flowers Productions, which produced it at a cost of a little more than $30,000.
Since its opening on April 1, between 600 and 700 people have paid to see the movie each day, Phoan Phuong Bopha said.
In the film, the actress’s parents do not support the lesbian love affair, and want her to marry a wealthy man instead. The young women flee to Kompong Chhnang province, where their affair leads to tragedy after the actress’ intended husband tracks them down.
“It is a sad, sad story,” said 19-year-old moviegoer Duong Phallyka during an interview Friday. However, she added, “It is a strong message to all parents not to separate lesbians—otherwise they will lose their kids forever.”
“I am not a lesbian, but I loved watching it,” said Phoan Monysrah, 16, a student at Wat Phnom High School who was at the theater Monday. “I think that there are a lot of lesbian and gay people in my country, but they dare not disclose their homosexual love affairs because of the strict culture.”
Som Sokun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture, who presided over the film’s opening day, said that he hopes films like this will attract more viewers to theaters with locally made movies.
“Generally, we have seen the production of films to show in theaters has declined,” he said. “But I believe Cambodian moviegoers support and want to watch Khmer film.”
Noy Sitha, head of the local NGO Women’s Network for Unity’s lesbian network, said Monday that she had not heard of the film, but its message was a familiar one. She added that she knows women who have been beaten or forced to marry men, even though they love other women.
“Some lesbians who dress as men have been shackled or locked in a room as parents tried to separate them from having love affairs with other women,” she added.