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Battambang acrobats to feature in film

Peter Olszewski No Comments Share:
Sopha Nem and Dina Sok at Angkor Wat. Photo: Oyen Rodriguez

A film titled “Cirque du Cambodia”, which charts the paths of two star performing graduates of Siem Reap’s famed Phare Circus, is slated for release in early 2018, according to the director Joel Gershon.
Gershon, who lived in Bangkok for 12 years, is now based in New York working on the editing and hoping to forge partnerships to secure “real distribution” in the US and Canada, where much of the film is set.
“I would like to first show this on the big screen and have a festival run,” he said. “And then I’d love to see this on TV and make it streamable.”
The film has been long in the making as Gershon originally conceived the idea after seeing a performance of the circus in its original home in Battambang in 2011.
He finally decided on documenting the international adventures of two young performers, Sopha Nem and Dina Sok, as they travelled from Cambodia to Canada and other countries following their circus dreams.
“The initial concept was something totally different,” he said. “I planned to concentrate more on Phare and follow a troupe to New York as Phare was set to perform in the US for the first time. But that tour fell through and I needed to come up with a Plan B.
“At the time, I was kind of freaking out, but I knew about this other option, even before meeting Sopha and Dina in Montreal for the first time.”
Gershon had heard that the two students, among the best at Phare, had been accepted to the National Circus School of Montreal.
“So I thought I’d go up there in May 2012 to see if that angle might work for the film and I immediately saw that their story would indeed have more depth,” he said.
“However, I knew I would have to play the long game because they were not going to graduate until 2016.
“One aspect I liked was the nice juicy hook that they might possibly make it into Cirque du Soleil eventually. Since everyone has heard of Cirque du Soleil, it makes the story even more relatable.
“By focusing on their dream of joining Cirque du Soleil, I took a gamble that one or both might make it, which would really give it a pay-off, and after five years, it happened. Dina Sok is in the Cirque du Soleil production VOLTA.
“The film subject who isn’t working at Cirque du Soleil, Sopha Nem, has a job working as an entertainer on a luxury cruise ship based in Germany, so I may pick up a little footage from there as well.
“But I don’t want to reveal the whole story of the film in this article.”
Gershon said he is making a cinematic feature length version of the film running about an hour and a half, but he is also exploring the idea of making a longer online version depending on the results of the fundraising drive he’s now working on.
“[The film has] been done on a shoestring thus far.  I raised $10K through crowd funding a few years ago, and now I’m currently trying to raise money in the US and Canada and ultimately hoping to link up with a production company to handle much of the costs.
“I feel I need a minimum of $100,000, but obviously would like more than that, if possible, so I can really make this into the film I envision and to get it out there for people to see. “I want to make a difference with this film and inspire audiences.”
While he notes that it is premature to talk such things just yet, he hopes to hold a premiere screening in Cambodia.
“I would love to get people all over Cambodia to see this film and hopefully be inspired, and I would love to have special events, especially for the premiere,” he said.

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