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'Billion star' film for Kingdom


Eunhui Weiss, a promoter for the US$200,000 Cambodian film ‘Billion Stars Hotel’, speaks at the launch yesterday, flanked by the film’s local producers and director Quentin Clausin. Photo by: Wesley Monts

THREE local film companies have formed a joint venture with a United States production company to produce a feature film, but producers said revenues in the Kingdom would suffer because of lax copyright.

The US$200,000 film “Billion Stars Hotel” will be produced by Cambodian companies Express Film, Kids Express, and 391 Films alongside US production company Critical Density Media (CDM), the joint venture announced yesterday at the launch in Phnom Penh.

Quentin Clausin, a producer with CDM, as well as the film director and scriptwriter, said the venture was not looking to the Cambodian market to turn a profit but rather was banking on the US audience because of poor copyright policing here.

“We aren’t hoping to get the profits from Cambodia’s market because the market here has a lot of copyright issues,” he said yesterday. “But I hope that we will make a profit from the US market.”

Nevertheless, he stressed the movie, expected to be released in the third quarter next year, was first and foremost a Cambodian film.

“We are truly making a film about Cambodia by Cambodians for the first time,” he said, adding that 90 percent of the crew and cast were Cambodian.

The film, which is about a New York fashion photographer’s seven-day journey in Cambodia, will be presented at film festivals and will seek a US film sales company to represent it, once produced.

Puth Por, executive producer of Kids Express, claimed it would help tourism.

“I am proud that we Cambodians have the ability to work with the international media,” he said. “This movie will help Cambodia a lot in terms of the tourism industry.”

However, he also voiced concerns of releasing the film in the Kingdom because of ignorance of copyright.

“I am very concerned about selling our product here. No one is protecting copyright,” he told the Post yesterday.

Sin Chanchhaya, director of the Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said he was happy to hear about the joint venture at a time when the local film industry was struggling.

“Cambodian films boomed during 2006-07. At that time we had ten movie theatres in Phnom Penh, but now we have only two theatres and I think that will drop more in the near future,” he said.

According to a new data collected by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, he said the industry had plummeted under widespread piracy combined with the economic crisis since 2008.

Around 67 film and karaoke production companies were registered in Cambodia this year but he believed not all were still operating.

“Nowadays, our film industry is on its last breath,” Sin Chanchhaya said. “Most producers have been forced to shut down, and cinemas almost no longer exist.”

In addition, ha said low-quality products and steep prices for local films had contributed to what he termed “the collapse of the industry”.

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