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Festival promises plenty for film fans

THE first annual Cambodian International Film Festival opens up three days packed with 120 films from 28 countries tomorrow at Chenla Theatre with the Australian-Iranian film My Tehran for Sale.

It closes with the world premier of Cambodian filmmaker Chhay Bora’s Lost Loves on Saturday night, also at Chenla Theatre.

The “basic concept” of the festival “is to educate, inspire, and entertain”, said Mariam Arthur, CEO of Kmy Films and one of the organisers. At a price of $1 per film, or $5 for the entire festival, attendees can almost certainly get all three. Screenings are free for students with school ID.

Cedric Eloy of the Cambodian Film Commission said that they selected films with the conscious intention to lead a revival of Cambodian cinema by engaging with different perspectives from international film. “The idea of this program is to present feature film from around the world in a narrative way that is different from Cambodia,” he said.

Films include features, documentaries, a selection of films that have won top prizes at Africa’s largest international film festival, anime, shorts, French classics, and several 1990s Cambodian films, with several new releases.

Highlights include Agrarian Utopia by Thai filmmaker Urupohn Raksasad, who filmed two farming families in his village in Chiang Rai for over a year. The documentary was awarded at a festival in Toronto last year.

Ali Zaoua by Nabil Avouch tells the story of four 12-year-old street kids in Casablanca who must find a way to give a proper burial to one of them who dies during an altercation with a rival gang. It won the top prize in 2001 at Africa’s largest film festival.

In My Neighbour My Killer (USA/France), documentary filmmaker Anne Aghion investigates the effectiveness of the open-air tribunals in Rwanda. Rwandans must grapple with past violence in a radically different venue from Cambodians. The tribunals are led by citizens who must try perpetrators who have been released from prison.

Woman on Fire Looks for Water is a film by Malaysian Woo Ming-jin, about a father and a son in a small village and their relationships with the women in their lives as one faces death and the other manhood.

A central purpose of the festival is also to promote the revival of the Cambodian film industry, with 15 local films as well as six documentaries shown. Director Rithy Panh will be honoured by showing The Rice People (1994) and An Evening After the War (1997). The festival is hosted by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and organized by FX Entertainment, the Cambodian Film Commission, and the Bophana Audiovisual Center.

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