PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – After a sneak preview in Cambodia last year, rave reviews internationally and multiple awards, the inspirational film that has pushed movie fans here into an agonizing wait will hit theaters on Friday.
“The Last Reel,” the debut feature film by Sotho Kulikar, is also the first by a Cambodian female director to win three international awards. It won the Spirit of Asia award at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year and the Black Dragon Award at the Far East Film Festival in Italy. Actor Sok Sothun also took the Best Supporting Actor award at the Asean International Film Festival in Malaysia.
“The Last Reel” is a story of a young girl named Sophoun who discovers a movie reel in a dilapidated cinema. The footage is from a movie that her mother starred in but never finished.
Filmed before the Pol Pot regime, which eradicated most of the country’s artists, the last section of the reel is missing. Sophoun is unable to find out how the movie was supposed to end because her mother is now mentally ill.
She decides to recreate the last scenes with the help of her friends and a mysterious projectionist who holds the secret to her parents’ past.
Collaborating with Ian Masters on the script, Ms. Sotho said that she wanted the film to convey a universal message of humanity, as well as depict the progression of the post-genocide generation. The director manages to capture the spirit of Cambodia’s golden era of films and music, the 1960s, with the mesmerizing vocals of Sophea Chamroeun and the familiar face of veteran actress Dy Saveth.
As a line producer with 10 years of experience in the film industry, Ms. Sotho had several major productions under her belt before she began the “The Last Reel.” Already running a production company, Hanuman Films, and a travel agency, she believed in the film’s success so much that she financed 99 percent of its budget and spent two years making it.
The hard work paid off. After the film’s world premiere last year, Ms. Sotho went on to win her first award in Tokyo, where the spirit she instilled in the film was applauded. She clasped her trophy and clung to the dream for the film to be a turning point for the industry here – a move beyond the dark history of Cambodia into the future of storytelling.
“I developed a desire to tell a story from a Cambodian perspective – to communicate to people across generations to move on to the future,” Ms. Sothos said while holding her award aloft last year in Tokyo.
It will premiere in the United States at the Cambodian Town Film Festival and now it is back in Cambodia where Ms. Sothos hopes the film with encourage more communication between the generations.
“We had a golden era of movies and music, we had a war, but Cambodia today is a modern society that is like any other developing country,” Ms. Sotho explained. “Besides the story of life, the film shows [contemporary] Cambodia.”
The film will open at Major Cineplex and Platinum Cineplexes in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and at Legend Cinemas on September 4.