Sothea Ines, 24, scooped the top prize at the Tropfest South East Asia short film festival in Malaysia late last month. Her seven-minute film, Rice, takes place in a children’s camp during the Khmer Rouge regime. Monochrome footage follows young orphans as they struggle to stave off hunger. Ines spoke to Marta Soszynska about how she plans to use the prize trip to Los Angeles and why she chose to make a fiction film about the Khmer Rouge.
How did you become involved in filmmaking?
I studied media and management, and on this course we have practice and we need to see what is a good shot, and things like that. I thought, ‘this is so cool, it’s a new toy’. I’m into it.
What were the films about that you made before this?
The first one was about protest in Cambodia, and the second one is children in a dump site in Siem Reap.
Why did you switch from documentary to fiction filmmaking?
I was doing my research on the story itself about the victims, and the children who were the victims at that time, and then when Tropfest came I got the chance to tell myself to give it a try to make this happen.
You didn’t grow up under the Khmer Rouge, so why did you want to make a film about that time?
One thing is when I was a child my mum always told us that we were so lucky, the children, that we had enough to eat, freedom to go to school, no violence and all that. So since then, we are like ‘yeah, we’re so lucky’, but I didn’t really understand that, I didn’t really get what was so difficult at that time. I was talking to some of the victims, some of their friends. I watched those films that have been made, Lost Loves, The Missing Picture. Actually, The Missing Picture was made before my film.
Why did you want to make the film silent and in black and white?
It was the time of silence. Silence meant that people needed to listen to Angkar, the Khmer Rouge organisation, so when they said bad things about them they were shut down, or killed. So there was not free expression, so it’s a silent era. And black and white, because at the time, it was almost 40 years ago so I wanted to take the flavour of 40 years ago, like the footage that I watched in the archive centre.
Have your family and friends ever questioned your decision to become a filmmaker?
It was very challenging because none of my family are in media or film production, they were kind of [wondering] what am I doing, I should be working in an office with the air conditioning as an accountant and all that. I should enjoy life with air-conditioning. Another challenging thing is that I’m not so good at technical, lighting and camera-work and all that. It’s tough, but I think as long as I have the story to tell, the camera-work is OK.
Part of your prize is to go to Los Angeles. What do you hope to gain from that trip?
I think I could learn from the Hollywood directors who have directed for a long time, so probably get their ideas and creativity and inject it into myself.