Charlie Chaplin will share the limelight with His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk during tnext week’s Memory! International Heritage Film Festival.
Organised by Bophana Audiovisual Centre in conjunction with Technicolor Foundation, a Paris-based organisation that preserves and restores old films, the festival aims to promote cinematic awareness in Cambodia.
“We want to educate young Cambodians, young and old, to see the importance of the successful films in the past and to keep it as heritage, just like in many developed countries,” said Rithy Panh, co-founder of Bophana and winner at the 2013 Cannes Films Festival for his film The Missing Picture.
Panh also said the festival hopes to promote watching movies on the big screen.
“We hope that this will give the experience to young Cambodians to feel the excitement of being in a real theater. It’s different from watching it on a laptop.”
The theme for this year’s festival, which the organisers plan to repeat next year, is dance. Consequently, musicals such as Robert Wise’s West Side Story, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain and Jean Renoir’s French Cancan dominate the festival.
Panh said that although it is hard to predict how Western classics will be received locally, he hopes that they inspire Cambodians to experiment with cinema.
“Of course, we are afraid how they will like West Side Story,” said Panh. “But maybe someone will make the Cambodian West Side Story.”
In order to garner enthusiasm, the festival organisers have chosen to fuse some of the movies with modern pop culture with Khmer-American rock band Dengue Fever performing at the festival along with French video jockey Alexandre Elkouby at Koh Pich on June 5.
“It’s not a concert, it’s a cine-concert.” said Séverine Wemaere, head of the Technicolor Foundation. “We want to find an entry point for people who would not see the movies, who think they are boring.”
However, it is not just Western films that will be shown at the festival. Films by Ly Bun Yim, one of Cambodia’s most important pre-Khmer Rouge filmmakers, and King Father Sihanouk, who dabbled extensively in filmmaking, will also be screened.
Wemaere said that the festival also highlights the worldwide need to properly protect old films from deterioration.
“Films are physically endangered all over the world,” said Wemaere, who added that 90 per cent of silent movies are considered lost. “It’s the case in France, the United States, Romania, Cambodia, Thailand, and so on.”
Memory! International Heritage Film Festival runs from June 1-9, with screenings taking place at Chaktomuk Conference Hall and at the Bophana Audiovisual Centre. Workshops and lectures will also be held at Institut Français from 10am on June 3-5. Admission is free.