1 March 2010

Cambodian Film Industry Salvation

Three stamps of Marlene Dietrich, Jeannette MacDonald and Gary Cooper from the 2001 set celebrating Hollywood anniversaries are on this cover.

Can you imagine a country has only two cinemas in her two million population capital city? Cambodia is in this pathetic situation now.

Ciné Lux at Norodom Boulevard and Cinema Sorya near the Central Market are the two cinemas in Phnom Penh which are still in business at the moment. As little as 13 films were made in 2009.

Cambodian film industry has suffered heavily in the last 2 years. Critics point out that cheap bootleg DVD and VCD have left investors suffer great loss, cinemas poorly-attended and authentic products unsold. The low budget horror film flood also contributes to the downfall. 

Cambodian movie industry had her heyday in the 1960s and the first half of 1970s. The now Kirirom Motel was then one of the tens of cinemas in Phnom Penh. (Photo: Cambodia Sin Chew Daily)

Before it is too late, measures are now taken to bring changes. The Royal Government has set up the National Committee for Intellectual Property Management for copyright education. Professional training programmes are also available to filmworkers so to raise film production standards.

In the meantime efforts are spared on the return of Cambodia to international film scene.

The film "Enemies of the People" directed by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath is having its Asian premiere at the 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival in this March.

Five short films funded by Sport Social Affairs Company (SSA) for promoting sports in Cambodia are planned to show at Festival de Cannes in May. Cambodian medal winning athletes at the 2009 SE Asian Games and local pop stars are featured in the films helping to give rainbow colours.

Domestically on 20th-23rd October there is the Cambodia International Film Festival which will be a first in the country since 1970. The parade will show off classic and modern Cambodian films, films shot in Cambodia, youth-oriented films, international independent films and award-winning documentaries.

The events are hoped to attract foreign investment which Cambodian film industry urgently needs.

Contemporary Cambodian films are not mediocre. "Rice People" directed by Rithy Panh was at the 1994 Festival de Cannes, and submitted to the 67th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the first time a Cambodian film submitted for an Oscar. His other works like "S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine" and "the Burnt Theatre" have also received worldwide acclamation.

Most contemporary Cambodian films are available on DVD, or VHS at least. Please show your support by purchasing authentic copies, show your respect to filmworkers.