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A still from Chap Somchanrith’s "Cambodian western" short "A Fistful of Pebbles", which will screen as part of this weekend’s Chaktomuk Short Film Festival.
A still from Chap Somchanrith’s "Cambodian western" short "A Fistful of Pebbles", which will screen as part of this weekend’s Chaktomuk Short Film Festival. Photo supplied

Festival an opportunity for Kingdom’s young filmmakers

The fourth Chaktomuk Short Film Festival begins on Friday with a bigger lineup of homegrown shorts than ever before.

Twenty-two Cambodian shorts and 25 more from abroad will be screened during the three-day festival at Aeon Mall’s Major Cinema and the French Institute. All the films on the program are under 30 minutes long, and fictional rather than documentary.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, festival director Sok Visal said the event would enable Cambodian short filmmakers to interact with producers and gain visibility – and, eventually, to increase the quantity and quality of local content.

“I believe that Cambodia is [full of] young filmmakers; so as long as they can showcase their works through our film festival, they can reach out to a wider crowd,” Visal said.

The festival will open with a ceremony and screening of the award-winning Colorful Knots by Ly Polen on Friday at Aeon Mall’s Major Cinema.

Prum Seila, one of CSFF’s co-founders and the president of arts collective Kon Khmer Koun Khmer, believes the festival demonstrates that the short film format is important, especially for filmmakers early in their career. “They just need the floor,” he said.

Seila said there were more Cambodian submissions to the festival than ever before and, for the first time, organisers received submissions from the provinces.

Recurring themes and subjects include family, LGBT issues, science fiction and animation.

Seven Cambodian films have been nominated to compete for the festival award – $3,000, to be awarded by a panel of judges – and for an audience award of $700.

Rin Sokreth, a 23-year-old graduate of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, produced and directed one of the nominated films, Spool. He said he hoped to one day direct feature films.

“Directing the young generation to produce short films is the first step,” said Sokreth.

Sokreth’s film – which served as his thesis project at RUPP this year – focused on the plight of a young garment worker. He said CSFF was a motivation for him to produce the film and share a fictional story about the subject.

Chap Somchanrith, a filmmaker who works for BBC Media Action, directed, produced and wrote one of the other nominated shorts, a seven-minute film he describes as a “Cambodian western” called A Fistful of Pebbles.

His film has been shown at international film festivals and took third prize at the Tropfest Southeast Asia short film festival this year.

“We wanted to do something different from what young Cambodian filmmakers make these days,” Somchanrith said. “There are so many stories to tell in Cambodia.”

The Chaktomuk Short Film Festival is sponsored by Cellcard, and supported by the Ministries of Culture and Information.

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