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Youth of the week: Rin Chhoum Virak

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That actress will not drown; you will see her at the other side of the bank,” says student Rin Chhoum Virak.

He clues audiences watching the movie “Bopha Angkor” which is screening in a classroom at Department of Media and Communication.

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Every Tuesday at lunch time, Dr Tilman Baumgärtel, a professor at DMC, screens Khmer movies from the 1960s and ’70s. Ever since the movies have been screening, Virak has never been absent from class.

At the age of 16, Virak has researched and collected about 33 collector’s items of old Khmer movies – some of which have even been lost by the original producer.

“I actually started collecting when I was in grade 10 which is about three years now.”

When he first started out, Virak faced many challenges; but this young man has never given up.

“The first big barrier was getting out there and talking to poeple and creating networks, as I was quite young and didn’t have a lot of confidence. I also didn’t really get any encouragement or support. But I did not give up my effort,” he said.

As a result, Virak conducted a team, and produced a radio talk-back show called “Movie Heritage”, or in Khmer, “Morodok Pheap Yon”. It stayed on air for almost two years and was well-liked among callers.

His team once co-operated with Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre and screened an old-school movie event.

There was such crowd turnout that some audience members were left with standing room only.

Currently, Virak is a first-year student majoring in Khmer Literature at Royal University of Phnom Penh.

“We plan to keep going when we have some spare time and would like to find another station that broadcasts nationally.”

This young achiever has also recounted many stories lost during the war, such as Tropeng Peay and Bisach Kromom.

“I met old people and asked them to recount their movie memory. It was unbelievable how much they could remember, including the date of screening.  I also verified with the old producers and actors. So far, I have written about 50 stories out of a contending 500 movies that disapeared.”

He is the eldest son among three children, and yet none of his relatives have any artistic talents. They do, however, love watching films, and Virak admits he has been doing that ever since he was a child.

“When I was young, I went to the cinema with my aunt. Then once the movie had finished, I wanted to give a review of the film to those who didn’t come with me,” he laughed.

Virak believes that old Khmer films are great in terms of its talented performers and highly educated content.

“For those who dislike old Khmer old films, it seems they have never used any critical thinking. And do not compare the technology of the past to what it is now. When we watch old movies, just imagine you were there at that time. Then, you will understand the context of the film.”

In the future, Virak hopes to keep working on this track.

Right now, he is compiling his research into a book he plans to publish once it is finalised and approved. He is also scheduling an exhibition about classic Khmer films, based on the materials he’s found over the years.

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