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International Film Festival comes at critical juncture for industry

Mark Tilly / Khmer Times Share:
A still from Rithy Panh's Exile, which will have its Cambodian premiere at this year's Festival. Film Distribution.com

Returning once again to grace the silver screens of Phnom Penh next month, the seventh Cambodian International Film Festival (CIFF) will feature more than 160 screenings and events to promote further sustainable growth within the fledgling industry.
On the back of last year’s success, which gathered more than 17,000 people, this year’s CIFF comes at a critical juncture in the Cambodian film industry, according to the Cambodian Film Commission’s (CFC) foreign advisor, Cédric Eloy.  
“The CIFF will feature films in and about Cambodia and the program this year is a reflection of the creativity of the feature films, documentaries and short films that are made in Cambodia,” he said during a press conference at the Bophana Center.
“The industry is developing slowly but surely. We have a large and interesting production that we can bring to the international market.”
The recent release of Cambodian films such as “Jailbreak,” hailed as Cambodia’s first action movie, and “Diamond Island,” which won a prize in last year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival, demonstrate the growing improvements within the local industry, according to Mr. Eloy.
He said he hopes these Cambodian entries into the festival will help garner further international attention for the local industry, so more film companies will choose to shoot movies in the kingdom.
Premiering at this year’s festival is Amit Dubey’s “Mind Cage” – a Cambodian thriller – as well as the Cambodian premiere of Rithy Panh’s “Exile,” a meditative essay on his life under the Khmer Rouge, which was part of last year’s Cannes official selection.
Other local highlights include Sok Visal’s “Poppy Goes to Hollywood,” a comedy aiming to raise awareness of the LGBT community.
Mr. Visal said he was thrilled that his film was invited to the festival and said the growing popularity of Cambodian films was a sign of the industry’s continued improvement.
“I think the quality is getting better and they deserve the attention they need so that one day Cambodia can be seen as a cultural destination for film and art,” he said.
“I think the CIFF is one very important element that will help get this international attention.”  
Demonstrating the region’s growing demand for homegrown films, international highlights include the premiere of “Asian Threefold Mirror: Reflections” on March 8.
A collaborative effort coproduced by the Japan Foundation Asia Center, the work strings together three episodes between three directors, Sotho Kulikar from Cambodia, Brilliante Mendoza from the Philippines and Isao Yukisada from Japan.
The work is designed to help deepen understanding between Japan and other Asian nations and is a perfect example of the ethos behind the CIFF, according to Mr. Visal.
“CIFF has been created to bring more curiosity to the audience and invite the audience to see things within the theaters,” he said.
After the success of her presidency over last year’s festival, Hollywood director and actress Angelina Jolie will continue her support of this year’s festival as a patron, according to a CFC statement.
She said in the statement that she was delighted to continue her support of the festival.
“It is an inspiring expression of the talent, creativity and vibrancy of Cambodian filmmaking and a bridge to other artists around the world,” she said.
“I hope this year’s festival will contribute to the exchange of ideas and introduce more people to Cambodia as a home for film and art.”
Her patronage comes after completing her film adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir “First They Killed My Father,” filmed in Cambodia and set to premiere in Siem Reap on February 18.
The Cambodian International Film Festival will run from March 4-9, with a detailed program of events listed online at www.cambodia-iff.com.

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