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Young in the City explores visions of Phnom Penh

Young Cambodian journalists highlight a variey of lives in Phnom Penh in this collection of 20 short documentaries

FREESTYLE bikers in Hun Sen Park, skate enthusiasts atop Sorya Shopping Centre and alternative rockers looking to transcend ubiquitous love ballads - these are just a few aspects of Cambodia's thriving youth culture explored by a group of young journalists in the new short film collection Young in the City.

The collection originated as a school assignment for nine broadcast journalism students from the Department of Media and Communication at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Chan Soratha, 23, one of the collection's producers, said his professor's instructions were simply to film residents of Phnom Penh under the age of 24. He and his eight colleagues took it from there.

"After seeing the final results, I think it shows that there are many kinds of lifestyles in Phnom Penh and, of course, we have only shown a fraction of them in our documentaries," Chan Soratha said.

The collection of 20 short films debuted at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre last week to an audience of expats and local residents; and while its production quality might fall well short by Hollywood standards, Young in the City does feature incisive narration and keen insight on how young Cambodians view life in their capital.

Eclectic collection

And don't be fooled by the title. These films are much more than a day-in-the-life home movie collection. The filmmakers chose from a broad cross-section of Phnom Penh culture, from athletes and paperboys to garment workers and snail vendors.

...It shows that there are many

kinds of lifestyles

in Phnom Penh.

In one segment, student Chhin Sothea interviews 17-year-old Yi, the Sorya Shopping Centre inline skate champ for 2007 and a grade 12 student who says many of her friends were inspired to join the Sorya skate club after she took up the sport.

"I wanted to show this story to people because most skaters are guys, and to tell about a young girl who skated would be interesting," he said.

In "Strong as a Man", Chan Soratha profiles Sophora, 19, a member of Cambodia's only female rugby team who says family support and her joy of the game keeps her coming back to Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium for gruelling weekly practice sessions.

Social themes

Social themes also feature prominently in the collection. In "The Snail Boy", student Tiep Seiha tells the story of young Long, a steamed snail vendor from Kandal province. "Sometimes the police throw away my snails, and I have to pay to get my cart back," Long tells Tiep Seiha.

Sun Sat, 17, sells newspapers so that his sisters and brothers won't have to. "The Paper Boy" was the brainchild of student Touch Yinmony.

"I want to become a journalist and thought it would be interesting to show another side of the newspaper industry," he said, adding that he wanted people to understand why some young people do not get a proper education.

At just 44 minutes in length, Young in the City merely scratches the surface of life in Phnom Penh. But what emerges is an eclectic and intelligent portrait of the joys and challenges of youth in the Kingdom's capital city. 

Young in the City is slated for a second screening at Bophana, though the date has yet to be fixed. Copies of the collection on DVD can be purchased for US$2 each by calling the Royal University of Cambodia's Department of Media and Communications at 023 884 408.

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