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From church boy to film director

Say Tola / Khmer Times Share:
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Ten Chetra’s father was always his role model, when it came to photography. As a kid, Mr Chetra tried to imitate his photographer dad and always folded a piece of paper in the shape of a camera, when he saw his father clicking on his camera.

Mr Chetra won the Audience Choice Award at the recent Sixth Chaktomuk Short Film Festival as director of the film “Key Chain”. In 2013, he got the third place in the prestigious Cambodia Cannon Photography Club competition.

But the road to fame for Mr Chetra has not been a path of roses.

In 2002, Mr Chetra’s father passed away and his mother soon fell ill. The family was plunged into poverty.

“My sisters quit studying to work but they wanted me to stay in school. When I reached Grade 11, I stayed with one of my sisters in Phnom Penh and she supported me through high school,” he told Youth Today.

Mr Chetra, being a devout Christian, also spent most of his time in church and recalled that it was “here that my dream came true”.

“I worked as an English teacher and also produced videos for the church. One day, a couple of foreigners came to church and I acted as their translator.

The activity while he was directing a film. Supplied

“They were moved by my translation and before they left, they gave me a gift. I used the money to buy a decent video camera and used it to produce more videos for my church – this time, more high-end ones.

“This was my way of showing gratitude to my benefactors,” he said.

In 2013, Mr Chetra heard of a photo competition organised by Cannon Cambodia.

“I submitted my entry and got a third prize, and was selected to go for training in Vietnam. That really motivated me,” he said.

After finishing high school, Mr Chetra wanted to study photography in university, despite not being able to afford the high tuition fees.

Refusing to take “no” for an answer, he then decided to take on a job as a window cleaner in a supermarket to pay for his university education. He also turned to his good friends for help.

“During my four years in university, I asked my friends’ parents to help support my meals. I’m really grateful for their help. They kept me from going hungry,” he said.

When Mr Chetra graduated from university, he worked as an equipment manager at BBC Media Action – a media development NGO in Cambodia.

“I learnt so much about film-making from BBC Media Action and gained so much practical knowledge,” he said.

After a year with BBC Media Action, Mr Chetra decided to apply to World Vision Cambodia as a video producer.

“I wanted to serve the community and repay back what others had helped me achieve. I found that World Vision was the best place to do that,” he said.

This year, World Vision Cambodia launched a campaign ‘#ForChildrenFor ChangeForLife’ – a campaign with the aim of raising greater awareness about critical issues in the country, namely community development, health and nutrition, education, child protection, youth empowerment, as well as the culture of philanthropy. Mr Chetra helped create six short films on the critical issues, and “Key Chain” is the combination of three films.

“We combined the three films to show how issues can be interconnected. We want the Cambodian people to be motivated and for them to take action. “This is my way of contributing to society,” said Mr Chetra.

“To make this film, we used house production with minimal resources. Most of the actors in the film are World Vision staff and volunteers,” he added.

Recalling his life’s struggle, Mr Chetra said: “Everyone has a dream and a goal. To pursue that goal, we have to face challenges – both big and small.”

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