The short film “Khema,” directed by Hang Sokharo, won the Best Screenplay award at this year’s Chaktomuk Short Film Festival, Cambodia’s largest officially recognised international short film event.
It was not Mr Sokharo’s first award. After attending a course in Thailand a few years ago, Mr Sokharo was director of photography on a film that later won an award for best cinematography.
“Before joining a short filmmaking class in Thailand, I didn’t realise that my talent lay in directing,” he said.
“But when I first saw the films showing at the Chaktomuk film festival, I thought that I could make a very different film by telling a story from my own point of view.”
He said that in making short films he wasn’t looking to send an educational message. Rather his film “Khema” was intended to reflect his own experiences.
With its themes of love and commitment, Mr Sokharo said that what he wanted to convey was his ideas about childhood and the journey of pursuing one’s goals.
Once he identified a goal, he said, he felt compelled to try to achieve it.
He added that the first scene was a dancer performing classical dance. The way it was shot, starting from the centre of the frame and moving to the top, gave people the respect perspective.
Like when people bow hand, they bow from low to high, adding that he considered his film to be more in the art-house than the commercial movie tradition.
“I choose to tell the story of an aspiring dancer because I personally know Belle, a very famous Khmer classical dancer,” Mr Sokharo said.
“When she dances, I just feel something very connected to my soul. By telling this story, I also wanted to show my respect for her.”
He said that if judged purely on technical merits, his film might not have won. He believes his film won because it was an authentic portrayal of his views.
His aim was to tell his personal story, while also reflecting on Cambodian culture and society.
“I think audiences will have a different perspective after watching my story, depending on the level of their knowledge.
“I have studied a lot about Khmer subjects, which helped me to come up with a clear story that was simple but interesting,” he said.
A good story should convey the director’s unique point of view, and their personal inspiration, he said. It should be original and other cannot copy.
This helped to make a story strong, the filmmaker said.
“When I was young I found it difficult to share my problems. Rather, I would always write my thoughts down in books.
“As an adult I think the best way to express them is through short filmmaking. That’s why I put my own character and experiences into this film.
“It gives my film a more artistic, rather than a commercial, quality,” he said.
As a young filmmaker Mr Sokharo said it was hard having to handle so many processes. He had to do everything on his own.
Cambodia’s film industry is still undeveloped, so young filmmakers need more guidance and support from senior filmmakers as well as the government, he said.
“To make a film, you have to love doing it. I sold my phone to help fund the making of this film, as I didn’t have work at that time. There are many challenges, but as a filmmaker we have to find solutions,” Mr Sokharo said.
He said he re-edited his film more than 100 times until he was satisfied. He finished it in 2015 and entered it in the festival without expecting to receive any awards.
Mr Sokharo said he wanted his film to be seen by the public simply because it was the result of so many rewarding times with his friends. Next, he wants to create a full-length feature.