First National Film Festival in 15 Years Kicks Off

For the first time in 15 years, an o­fficial, national film festival is un­derway in Phnom Penh. The festival, which features 22 Cambodian movies, opened at the Chaktomuk Theater on Monday, and is the first such event since 1990, officials said.

Thirteen movie production companies submitted films to com­pete for nine awards for various different categories, which will be awarded on Friday.

Retired King Norodom Siha­nouk has offered his film “Crepuscule,” which was awarded a prize at the Indian Film Festival in 1969, to be shown during the festival, though it is not competing against other movies.

The public can view all 22 films for free through Thursday at Phnom Penh’s Lux Cinema on Nor­­odom Boulevard and Kirirom Cinema on Sihanouk Boulevard.

Producer Tong Seng, of Prasat Pich Movie Production, submitted his films “Mother’s Death,” of 2004, and this year’s “Great Snake’s Grandson.”

He said the $35 entry fee paid for each movie submitted is worth it, even if his films take home none of the awards.

“I want to honor the Cambodian film industry,” he said.

The film festival comes after three large Phnom Penh cinemas have closed in recent months due to a decline in moviegoers.

Veteran movie producer Ly Bun Yim noted that most of the en­­tries in the festival are horror mo­vies, and warned that the domination of the industry by this category is distorting the film industry.

“It is mostly just teenagers who watch ghost movies,” he said.

Minister of Culture Prince Siso­wath Panara said that encouraging the movie industry is an important national goal.

“People survive by inhaling oxygen, but some people don’t understand its importance,” he said at the opening ceremony. “Culture is just like oxygen: If a nation loses its culture, that nation will lose its identity.”

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