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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Film by Prince off to Malaysia

Film by Prince off to Malaysia

Prince Norodom Ranariddh has followed in the footsteps of his father, King Norodom

Sihanouk, and written and directed a feature film.

Raja Borei was sent to Malaysia March 20 to be screened at a film festival, a source

told the Post. The Cambodian premiere will likely be held in December after it appears

at another international film festival.

The film, a love story laden with cultural overtones, begins centuries ago with a

meeting between a sculptor and a maiden at Angkor Wat. They discuss the need for

the Kingdom to maintain in perpetuity its cultural heritage.

It then moves to present-day Cambodia, with the same two actors representing the

descendants of those in the opening scene. One is an aspiring Apsara dancer, the

other wants to be a tour guide.

After fulfilling their career ambitions, fate ensures the two meet and they, like

their ancestors, lecture each other on the importance of the country's cultural heritage.

Their mutual love for preserving their culture blossoms into love for each other,

but in the tradition of all good cinema the two must face down a seemingly insurmountable

problem: in this case the competing love interest is a man who traffics Buddha heads

from Ta Prom and sells them in foreign lands.

After the tour guide goes in search of those pilfering the country's heritage he

mysteriously disappears. His grieving fiancee, unaware of the evil trafficker's real

job, decides to marry him instead.

What will happen to the tour guide? Will the loving couple be re-united, or will

evil win beauty's heart? The Post is naturally reluctant to reveal too much, and

movie buffs will have to wait until the end of the year to find out.

The film is laden with shots of traditional dancing, folk games, and of course, Angkor

Wat. It also praises King Sihanouk as the father of independence, and the man whose

goodness revived Khmer culture. The King's first feature film, made in 1966 and entitled

Apsara, was intended to be an idyllic "fairyland" Cambodia in the pursuit

of national solidarity.

The King won both grand prizes at the Phnom Penh International Film Festival, a short-lived

creation which he established. The prize, which was only awarded in 1968 and 1969,

was a solid gold statue of an Apsara. He received criticism at the time and later

that he had neglected issues of state while pursuing his film-making hobby in the

1960s.

In an ironic twist not lost on observers here, Raja Borei comes out at a time when

Prince Ranariddh's Funcinpec party is in disarray after a poor showing in February's

commune elections, and internal divisions are coming to the fore. The problems within

the royalist party, however, are unscripted, and the outcome is likely to be less

predictable.

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