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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - From Russia with lights: Film festival to boost cultural ties

From Russia with lights: Film festival to boost cultural ties

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After a low point in the early '90s, Russian cinema is undergoing a

revival and a delegation is in town to showcase their newest films

Photo by:
Georgia Wilkins

A Russian actress at the opening of the Russian film festival in Phnom Penh.

AS the domestic film industry threatens to sink into non-existence, Cambodian cinephiles this week will be able to get a taste of what's possible when finances eventually turn their favour.

A five-day film festival celebrating the recent resurgence of Russian cinema to near-Hollywood stature kicked off Thursday, showcasing the latest that the now-US$100 million industry has to offer.

"We want to broaden our ties and exchange our views to help our cultures understand each other," a Russian embassy official told the Post Thursday.

A cultural delegation, including filmmakers, actors and actresses, arrived in Phnom Penh last week to launch the festival - the first delegation of its kind to travel to the Kingdom since 1986, when ties between the former communist allies were stronger.

This is the first step towards a new friendship in the movie sector.

All five films, one of which is a full-length animated feature,  reflect the big-budget stylings that Russia's newly moneyed cinema is capable of producing. But as speakers were aware, things had not been like this for a long time.
"Nowadays, Russian cinema is on the rise," said Galina Strochkova, director of the General Directorate of National Film and Theatre Promotion, adding that the transition to a market economy and the dismantling of the Soviet Union led to a financial crisis that crippled the Russian film industry in the 1990s. Theatres were turned into restaurants and shoe shops, something Cambodians today would be familiar with.

The turnaround offered a hopeful lesson for Cambodia, Som Sokun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said on Thursday. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the festival, he said he hoped the screening of such films would encourage Cambodian performers and technicians to "absorb the valuable experience towards the development of their specialties, so as to contribute to the development of the Cambodian film sector".

He then reflected on the 1980s, when the Soviet Union provided film projectors and mobile theatre vehicles, as well as an annual 100 films, to entertain Cambodian audiences.

"This is the first step towards a new friendship in the movie sector between the two countries," said Ly Dany, an official from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

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