Bad Things Happen To Artifacts Thief in Cambodian Drama
She works for Angkor Conservatory in Siem Reap, lovingly guiding visitors through the temples of Angkor when she’s not helping her organization protect the nation’s ancient treasures.
Her husband’s job? Stealing artifacts from the temples and delivering them to his boss, who sells them to the highest foreign bidder.
This can’t end well, and it doesn’t. There’s barely anyone left standing at the end of “The Lohet Sela (Blood Stone),” which is exactly the message for viewers from the producers at TVK.
“The Lohet Sela” is a 100-minute film the Cambodian television network plans to debut on Saturday, Sept 16, after the 7 pm news.
Its goal is to stop any more pillaging of the Siem Reap temples, but if you tune in hoping to see magnificent Angkor Wat footage, you won’t get it.
Director Sok Sophal intentionally limited the amount of temple footage, and almost completely obscured the theft of the so-called Blood Stone (a black statue of Shiva) in darkness, because he didn’t want any images that might suggest to viewers that hacking a piece off a temple might be profitable.
Sok Sophal would rather show the consequences of temple theft. In this story, theft quickly leads to lying, disloyalty, infidelity, fiendish nightmares and death threats. Then it gets really bad.
Husband Saray, wife Kessor and young daughter Tevy seem to have a beautiful life in their modern, well-furnished home outside of Siem Reap.
Saray doesn’t talk much about his “business,” except to say he has to work odd hours whenever the boss summons him, but he is a good provider, and Kessor obviously is proud of her job with Angkor Conservatory.
The trouble begins when Saray gets called to Phnom Penh by his robber-buddies. He tells them he doesn’t want to steal again, because his wife will disown him.
Even after a dinner at a nice restaurant, a boat cruise on the Mekong with some friendly girls and a night in a hotel room, he still doesn’t want to do it.
Then his friends throw Saray the real guilt trip. They remind him that another member of the gang risked his life to help Saray get away from the police after an earlier robbery.
Now that gang member is in jail, and they can make enough money to bribe his way out of jail if they steal the Blood Stone.
So late one night, Saray sneaks out of the house and helps the others do the dirty deed, taking the statue out of the building complex where his wife works. Within days, Kessor empties her husband’s knapsack and finds a snapshot of Saray with one of the friendly girls in Phnom Penh.
She’s so upset she accidentally breaks a teak Apsara dancer in the living room.
When she goes to the garage for glue to fix it, she looks in the back seat of their car, and sees the Blood Stone wrapped in a burlap sack.
It gets ugly fast. Saray says his friends will kill him if he gives it back. She says she’ll have to. Young Tevy wanders up, and gets hurt when her parents start wrestling over the statue.
Afraid of losing his family, Savay goes back to Phnom Penh and tries to convince his gang to give the Blood Stone back. They disagree—violently—and by the time the story ends, a lot of people are either dead or wish they were.
Sok Sophal spent three months putting the show together. A fimmaker trained in Moscow from 1987 to 1993, he has worked mostly on TVK educational programs.
Sok Sophal has two more projects lined up. He’s working with Minister of Information Lu Laysreng on a 35-millimeter film tentatively entitled “Killer of My Dad.” Sok Sophal calls it “a plea to Khmers to stop killing each other.”
He also has plans for a TV series based on Cambodian life in the 1930s under French control.