Cambodia's film industry is expected to play a greater role on the global stage after a treaty was signed with France on Thursday making it easier for the country to be named a co-production partner in international films.
The agreement will allow Cambodian investors to become a major stakeholder in international films to which they contribute a minimum of 10 per cent of the funding, according to Phoeung Sakona, minister of culture and fine arts.
Speaking at the opening of the fourth Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) at Legend Cinema on Saturday evening, Sakona said the agreement could have important consequences for a new adaptation of Francois Bizot’s Khmer Rouge memoir The Gate. French filmmaker Régis Wargnier (Indochine) will direct the movie, which is set to begin filming in January. French-Cambodian director Rithy Panh is also involved in the production.
Cedric Eloy, CEO at the Cambodia Film Commission, which co-organised the festival with the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre, praised the move, saying the treaty gives Cambodia input in the content, artistic side and technical sides of films.
“It will give hope to filmmakers here not to make projects that are based only on this small market but to have projects that are universal and can be interesting to other countries.”
He added that the treaty will allow Cambodia to co-operate in heritage protection, training, exchanges and film festivals.
France has already signed a similar co-production agreement with other Asian countries such as India, China, Japan and South Korea.
The announcement came as this year’s CIFF launched in a ceremony featuring traditional Cambodian dance and the screening of two Cambodian short films.
At the event, the festival awarded recognition to director Rithy Panh and actor Thon Thanet, for director of the year and actress of the year, respectively.
Panh’s critically acclaimed film The Missing Picture has been shortlisted for an Academy Award and was awarded a prize at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, but this was the director’s first Cambodian award.
He said: “It’s very important for me to be recognised by my own country.”
This year’s edition of CIFF, organised by the Cambodia Film Commission and the Bophana Centre, features more than 80 screenings across five Phnom Penh venues over five days this week.
As well as screening recent celebrated Cambodian films such as The Missing Picture, A River Changes Course and Where I Go, it will also premiere Hok Visal’s new feature film Gems on the Run. Other highlights include Indonesian and Indian films.
Eloy said: “I think the festival and the film industry are getting better every year.”