French Executive Asks for Aid on KR Footage

Hours of Khmer Rouge film footage currently in the possession of a French TV executive highlight the pressing need for a comprehensive audio-visual ar­chive in Cambodia, cultural officials said Monday.

Countless pieces of historic vis­ual material now stored in France should be returned to Cambodia so scholars and citizens can better understand their history, they said. The French Cultural Center plans next year to help establish an archive of film and photography in Phnom Penh in collaboration with filmmaker Rithy Panh, according to the center’s director, Marie Christine de Navacelle.

“A large portion of Cambodian photographs and films have been taken by the French,” she said. The project aims to return these resources to their rightful home.

The issue came to light in re­cent months, when Daniel Re­nouf, a French television executive, appealed to the French Cult­ural Center for funding to re­store a large collection of docu­men­tary footage of the various regimes of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Estimated to contain more than 1,000 hours of footage, the col­lection was given to Renouf in 1998 by Nuth Narang, who was at that time the minister of culture, on condition that Renouf take it back to France and repair it.

The films were badly damaged at the time: “They had a bad smell, and we could not keep them,” said Som Sokun, director of the Cin­ema and Diffusion Cultural De­part­ment the Ministry of Cult­ure. “But they are still the prop­erty of the Ministry of Cult­ure.”

In 2001, Renouf said very little restoration had taken place on the films. Earlier this year, he asked the French Cultural Center to help fund the restoration project, de Navacelle said. “We will not fund anything until we know the film will be restored to the Cam­bodian government,” she ex­plained.

“This case shows that there is a real need to gather up this ar­chive material and sort out who has the rights to it all,” de Na­vacelle said.

“I think everyone is convinced of the need to better manage these resources.”

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