Cambodia’s A-list celebrities flocked to Canadia Tower in Phnom Penh last Tuesday night, where representatives of the movie industry promoted the upcoming Filmart convention in Hong Kong, and Sabay announced the finalists for its website’s celebrity competition.
Singers, actors and television personalities trod down the red carpet in high heels and their finest clothes, to rub shoulders with businesspeople from the local media industry.
Sabay and FX Entertainment host a networking night for the show business circuit every three months, but this week’s – in honour of Filmart and Sabay’s contest – was grander than usual, attracting a turnout of roughly 200 guests, including some celebrities popular enough to make the cut in Sabay’s competition.
Sabay, a local media and communications company, established a news and entertainment website last year. “We have over 10,000 visitors a day, mostly young people,” said Srun Mengkiang, media supervisor at Sabay. “The Sabay website focuses on entertainment news, we don’t focus on gossip. All the content is profiles of stars, profiles of producers, from all over Cambodia. And we talk about activity in the art world and entertainment industry of Cambodia.”
Three months ago, the site collated almost 300 profiles of famous singers, actors and MCs, and threw open voting for a competition the company touts as Cambodia’s answer to the Oscars.
Over the course of the year, the voting will whittle down the list of celebs until only six stars remain – one female and one male from each of the three categories. The voting is open for another three months, and will culminate in a giant awards night where the top stars receive their accolades. Last Tuesday night, the 60 finalists were revealed.
“There have been more than a million votes tallied so far,” said Srun Mengkiang, adding that the large number is due to super-fans voting for their favourite star multiple times.
“Now comes the final round, where we find the most popular male and female stars in each category. We will have a big event in Cambodia, we want it to be like the Oscars or Grammy nights.”
Mariam Arthur, founder of Film Cambodia and the Thunderbird Film Festival, said the competition was generating good publicity for the Khmer glamourazzi.
“It’s exciting, because it’s really helping promote the actors, who sometimes have a hard time making a living doing their craft,” she said.
Arthur used the night to promote Filmart, a yearly film market organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council that will run from March 19 to 22 next year.
“This is the first time we’ve had an event of this scale to help promote Filmart,” she said.
Cambodian filmmakers have only just started to represent their wares at Filmart, but Arthur is positive that they have a strong future.
“The first year I went to Filmart, nobody knew anything about Cambodia. I have been attending other film markets since 2000, so I knew a lot of the major players, and I told them I was living in Cambodia and they were like ‘Mariam! What are you doing there?’ and so I really had to stand up for Cambodia. I told them, ‘You really need to keep your eyes open and watch what we’re putting out there over the next few years.’ They weren’t sure in the beginning, but now they’re seeing that what I said was true.”
Last year, Arthur’s support was vindicated, when the market had a Cambodian pavilion for the first time in its history.
“The Hong Kong trade development council was so excited to have a Cambodian pavilion that they included it in their opening speech at the Asian Film Awards,” she said.
“I firmly believe that Cambodians can make movies, which can make them money. The fear of piracy, of not being able to make money with their movies, has kept them back. But they have the ability. There are a lot more resources now, like the availability of HD, means they’re ready.”