One More Award for Filmmaker Rithy Panh

The International Documentary Association (IDA) announced on Thursday in Los Angeles that Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh will be this year’s recipient of its Preservation and Scholarship Award.

In a release posted Thursday, the U.S.-based IDA said the award “recognizes individuals or organizations that have made notable contributions to preserving significant motion picture archives and educating the public and industry about the role nonfiction filmmaking plays in society.”

Archivist Son Sokun uses a computer Friday in the public viewing room at the Bophana Center in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Archivist Son Sokun uses a computer Friday in the public viewing room at the Bophana Center in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

A celebrated film director, Mr. Panh’s latest accolades are not so much for his talent as a filmmaker but rather his efforts to preserve Cambodia’s audiovisual heritage by founding the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center in Phnom Penh.

“The Bophana Center collects film, television, photography and sound archives on Cambodia from around the world and grants free access to the public” in addition to conducting film training, the IDA release said.

Mr. Panh will share the podium at a December award ceremony with two other winners—American actor Robert Redford, who founded the Sundance Institute and its Sundance Film Festival to support independent filmmakers, will receive the Career Achievement Award and the documentary-film firm World of Wonder, founded by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, will receive the Pioneer Award.

Mr. Panh began raising funds for the Bophana center in the mid-2000s. What drove him was his belief that Cambodians must be aware of their past in order to build their future.

“People must feel proud and happy to be themselves,” he explained at the time.

“We can be proud and happy to live if we know who we are, if we know our history. Then we are able to create, to imagine.”

Today, the Bophana Center not only stores visual and audio archives ranging from 1950s newsreels to traditional song recordings, but has also continued adding to its archives by filming and recording today’s Cambodian artists in order to build tomorrow’s “audiovisual memory,” said Chea Sopheap, the center’s deputy director.

Mr. Panh is taking part in a film festival in Mexico and could not be reached for comment.

This prize is the latest in a long list of international accolades that the 50-year-old filmmaker has received over the last two years.

In May 2013, his film “The Missing Picture” won the Un Certain Regard award for alternative films at the Cannes Film Festival in France. A few months later, Mr. Panh was named the 2013 Asian Filmmaker of the Year at the 18th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

In January, “The Missing Picture” was selected as one of five Oscar finalists in the foreign-language film category at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood, the first time that a Cambodian film reached the finals. The award went to the Italian film “The Great Beauty.”

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