‘Let’s make Cambodian films great again’

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Chhay Bora, CEO of Palm Film Productions, explains the budget breakdown for a film. KT/Say Tola

Most of us are movie fanatics. We wait for the release of our favourite films and sequels, and march to cinemas to get the first tickets. And more likely than not, we’ll talk about how the actors portrayed their roles and fret over unexpected sad endings even after the film’s no longer very relevant.

Most of us are movie fanatics. We wait for the release of our favourite films and sequels, and march to cinemas to get the first tickets. And more likely than not, we’ll talk about how the actors portrayed their roles and fret over unexpected sad endings even after the film’s no longer very relevant.

However, not many of us have actually taken the time to wonder about what happens beyond the silver screen. Not so many of us have asked these essential but disregarded questions: Who makes our favourite films? How does the production go? How much does it cost to create one feature film or a documentary? Who gets involved in the entire process of shooting scenes?

All these questions were answered during the panel discussion on “Let’s Make Cambodian Films Great Again”. Initiated and organised by the Department of Media and Communications and Next Camp, five of the most notable filmmakers, producers and experts in Cambodia offered their insights to students last Friday, June 8.

Pok Borak, Director of Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department, said the kingdom has had a rich history in filmmaking, starting from King Sihanouk’s fondness for films.

Participants of the panel discussion are encouraged to push for high-quality local films. KT/Say Tola

“Cambodian film was also under France. In 1951, France gave the Ministry of Information the right and the responsibility to create its own laws and policies on local films. During that time, Cambodia already had seven cinemas screening foreign films. In 1952, two Cambodian filmmakers emerged. That marked as the birth of local filmmaking. During the 1960s, which some people refer to as the Golden Age, the country has had 60 film productions, but only 10 succeeded because of technological incapacity of most of the film outfits,” Mr Borak shared.

He added that there were about 300 films produced in Cambodian from 1955 to 1975 in 33 cinemas around the country. The peak of filmmaking was during the first half of the 1970s.

“To make successful films, producers and filmmakers need the support of the government – possibly on taking tax from film productions – so production companies can invest more on enhancing the quality of their outputs. This will also encourage more young producers to pursue the art,” said Mr Borak.

Chhay Bora, who has always been passionate about filmmaking since childhood, also presented an informative display on the facts about filmmaking – budget, risks, taxes. As the president of the Motion Picture Association of Cambodia and CEO of Palm Film Production, Mr Bora personally knows how hard it is to create even a five-minute short film. The amount of money you risk for the project is a no joke, he shared.

Pok Borak shares the history of the golden era of Cambodia’s film industry. KT/Say Tola

“To make Cambodian films great again, you have to walk through the obstacles and never give up. Cambodia needs more qualified filmmakers – scriptwriters, directors, cinematographers and all those involved behind the camera. Cambodian films can only redeem its glory if we have people who are really knowledgeable and passionate about it,” said Mr Bora.

Producer of Viplas Rachana, Sothea Ines, also shared her own experiences – triumphs and failures – in making Khmer movies.

“It is possible that Cambodian films can be great again. But new generations have to ensure that their hearts and minds are devoted to it. They have to keep learning from experienced people, from books and from other good movies. That’s how they can gauge their own strengths and weaknesses and improve.”

All speakers agreed that the young generation, given the right education and exposure, will create bigger and better film industry. The future of filmmaking is in the hands of the youth.

‘Let’s make Cambodian films great again’

And there’s one big reason to believe that Cambodian films will be soaring greater heights soon as the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts will be opening a three-month course on film production in August. Trainees will get a chance to create short films and compete with other filmmakers in November. Those who are interested to be part of the programme Film Leader Incubator: FLY 2018, are encouraged to visit http://cambodia-cfc.org/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=374%3Acall-for-application-film-leader-incubator-fly-2018&catid=60%3Aclasses-and-workshops&lang=en.

With this new film course and the encouragement from local filmmakers, there’s no reason to doubt that the film industry is heading in the right direction.

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