The results of Cambodia’s first ever awards show for entertainment sparked a lively online debate on the popular website that was its main sponsor, www.sabay.com, where many comments suggested the judging was rigged, others complained that the money spent could have been better used assisting the poor, and some dismissed the awards as “unjust” because they neglected to celebrate traditional arts.
The Anachak Dara, or Star Kingdom Awards, held on February 16, handed out 36 trophies in two categories: talent and popularity. The 30 that went to talent were shared equally: 10 for movies, 10 for television and 10 for music.
Voting was conducted online and by surveys in rural areas and the trophies were handed out before an audience that included hundreds of celebrities at Koh Pich Theatre.
An estimated 3,000 people crowded outside the venue hoping for a glimpse of their favourite stars.
Kim Sokun, 33, watched the event live on television, but dismissed it as useless.
“It seemed like a waste of money. Why didn’t they use the money and donate it to the poor or to orphanages,” he said.
Sovann Darina, 29, was less critical, saying the show looked good, but the awards were handed out unfairly.
“Some singers do not know how to sing, but they still won awards,” he said.
Still, he said he would support the event next year because it gave a boost to the entertainment industry and encouraged entertainers to improve their skills.
He also urged organisers to be more creative on the stage, use better lighting and – most importantly – ensure judging was fair.
So Pheng, 26, posted a lukewarm assessment on sabay.com, saying the award show was only 50 per cent good, primarily because it focused on entertainers and skipped traditional arts. “I hope it will be better next year,” So Pheng said.
Others complained that their favourite stars were left out.
Pop sensations Preap Sovath and Khemarak Sereymun both won, leaving fans of the two most popular male singers smiling. The first was named Superstar of the Year and the second Best Young Singer. T
he award for Handsome Singer went to Niko, who is known for his taste in make-up, while female singer Sokun Nisa won the Sentimental Singer prize.
The Best Sad Actress trophy went to Kao Sotheary; while transsexual Poppy took home the Very Attractive Star award.
Voting was conducted online and by surveys in the provinces, with the awards taking even some of their winners by surprise. Khemarak Sereymun said he heard he had won from a friend because he was not present during the event.
“I was invited a day before the event, but I had already agreed to perform in Kampong Cham so I couldn’t join the show,” he said, adding that he had not yet been contacted by the event organisers to inform him that he had won.
“I am very happy that I won, and I want to express my gratitude to the voters and my fans,” he added.
Meas Soksophea, who won the Best Young Singer Award, was well prepared for the event.
She appeared on stage in an elegant dress, overflowing with bashful excitement.
“It was the best event in my life,” she said.
“I always dreamed when I was a little girl in the province that I would win an award.”
The songstress also struck out at criticism that her charitable activities were self-serving, saying she performed concerts to assist the disabled as well as flood victims, not to increase her popularity.
“I felt sad when I saw the families and animals flee to the safe shelter on the way to Prey Veng province where I had gone to perform,” she recalled. “It made me think of my life in my hometown [in Kandal Province], where a flood once washed my bed away.”
“Though I’m a famous singer, gossips made me feel nervous [about the awards],” she said, adding that she kept telling herself not to be “afraid of the facts”.
She called on all Khmer stars to join the awards.
“It would be great if we show the solidarity of Khmer stars by all participating in our cultural event.”
Though happy that he won an award for his TV show, 33-year-old comedian Doung Sokea said he felt his producer should have received one too because he had made him famous.
“When I saw the trophy, I felt I missed everyone who has helped me along the way,” he said.
He also called for greater variety among voters and a wider number of categories.
TV host Hin Channiroth received a “popularity award”.
The Bayon TV host is admired for her beauty, but said she still refuses to have a boyfriend.
“I have no time for love because I’m focusing on work for now,” the 23 year old said.
A winner in the Freshy Girls and Boys Contest in 2007, Channiroth now hosts a few programs and is branching into drama.
Her latest series began filming at the end of last year.