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First Oscar bid in 18 years


Mariam Arthur, head of COSC (C), poses with the film package that will be sent to the Academy. Photograph supplied

Mariam Arthur, head of COSC (C), poses with the film package that will be sent to the Academy. Photograph supplied

It's been nearly two decades since the last submission Cambodia made to the Oscars.

Now the country has finally made another, and entered the film Lost Loves to the Best Foreign Language category – an historic event for Cambodia’s resurgent film industry.

After the Cambodian Oscar Selection Committee (COSC) voted unanimously to submit the historical drama Lost Loves, the story of a woman’s survival of the genocide was shipped to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on August 18.

The only other film submitted by Cambodia for consideration by the Academy was Rithy Panh’s The Rice People in 1994.

Chhay Bora, the director of Lost Loves, and his wife, who was the main actor in the film, used 15 years of personal savings to produce the film. The tale of a woman who lost many family members to the Pol Pot regime was inspired by Leave Sila, Bora’s mother-in-law.

When it was released on January 6 this year, the film was an instant hit. Due to demand, it screened consecutively for 42 days. It then continued to play on a weekend basis until April 2012.

Many Khmer Rouge survivors and those from the next generation know it as a deeply affecting film.

Mariam Arthur, the head of COSC, said that Lost Loves has the potential to to be a serious contender to win an an award thanks to strong acting and direction.

“The movie shows strong passion of a woman’s hardship during the Khmer Rouge regime. All of the production elements came together to make the audience feel the pain and joy of the main character,” says Mariam.

The film met the technical and theatrical standards required by the Academy and the directing and acting in the film met international standards, she said.

While Cambodian filmmakers produced up to 23 films last year, few met international standards, mainly due to the continued use of dubbed sound instead of actors’ original voices.

COSC feels the film could be selected at least as one of the intital five nominees, if it does not actually receive the Oscar.

Each year, the Academy is sent one film approved by participating countries’ selection committees. Out of all the submissions, the Academy selects five films as Best Foreign Language Film finalists. Academy members then vote for the winning film.

“I think that Lost Loves has a real chance of being selected because the film surely shows a new kind of film,” Arthur said.

Members of the Academy, who vote for the Oscar nominees and winners, would not take into account the box-office profit from the film, but would judge it on its academic merit, she said.

Her advice to future filmmakers is to consult COSC before producing a film, if they want to submit a film to the 2013 Academy Awards, for guidance on how to meet requirements.

“We would give filmmakers suggestions about the criteria they should fulfil. All directing, acting, cinematography, story, sound, music and theme should be consulted upon.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Lim Meng Y at



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