PM-Approved Film: Melodrama or Propaganda?

 A movie that pays tribute to Cam­bodia’s teachers and has received the approval of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany has been showing in Phnom Penh’s Kiri­rom Cinema since Saturday. 

But some critics say the three-hour-long “Teacher’s Heart,” profits from which will be donated to the Bun Rany-headed Cambodian Red Cross, is more propaganda than mel­odrama.

Poan Phuong Bopha, one of the movie’s three scriptwriters, said she was prompted by repeated pub­­lic requests by Hun Sen to make the film.

“Samdech Hun Sen and his wife also strongly supported having such a movie,” she said. “Both teachers and students must walk and struggle together to reach achievements in their studies.”

Lim Chhiv Ho, president of At­wood Import Export and the film’s producer, said she gave $50,000 of her own money to cover the project, adding that she hopes the film will encourage students to respect their teachers.

Heng Tola, managing director of Kirirom Cinema on Sihanouk Bou­levard, said it had been seen by 2,000 moviegoers, grossing $3,000. However, wealthy business people who accompanied Bun Ra­ny to the Saturday premier donated $20,000 to the Cambodian Red Cross via the cinema, he added.

Teachers and students get a 50-cent discount off the $1.50 ticket price, he said.

The movie tells the story of a young boy named Veasna in Ban­teay Meanchey province whose mother is dead and whose father is in pris­on. Despite these setbacks, he re­ceives strong support from a teach­er. However, the teacher is only able to help the boy by taking cash from the other students that attend his class. Veasna flourishes and grows up to be a school headmaster. However, Veasna is confronted in his later years by parents who complain that teachers are taking cash payments from their children—a controversial practice in schools today.

The hero, Veasna, defends the practice to the parents. “Teachers are forced to do it be­cause of low salaries,” he explains in the movie. “Teachers really suffer,” he adds.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cam­bodian Independent Teach­ers’ Association, said he was happy that tribute was being paid to teachers, but added that if the government really wants to help, it should raise their salaries.

“It is only propaganda. The government should not only make such films but should provide actual encouragement by raising teachers’ salaries,” he said.

Sar Pheara, a Phnom Penh high-school student, said she enjoyed the movie, but would prefer that teachers have their salaries raised rather than live off payments from their students.

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