AFTER months of anxious planning and intense media speculation, location
shooting for the Paramount Films production of Tomb Raider finally took place in
Siem Reap from November 22 till 29.
As tourists come to see Lara's Angkor, where Cambodians dress in Vietnamese hats and live in a fishing village on the steps of Angkor Wat, the temples will be framed by a new, contemporary mythology, that might one day rival the original Angkorean myths of creation.
Beginning on November 18, the
Paramount Films entourage, including Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie,
rumbled into Siem Reap in a fleet of 30 trucks, Angkor Wat's first brush with
Hollywood since Peter O'Toole hit town in 1964 to film Lord Jim.
McGeoghan, the film's now-exhausted transport coordinator told the Post, "People
just stopped their early morning activities, frozen by the sight of a line of
green flashing truck lights stretching way off into the dusty
Indeed, in reflecting on what he has had to organize over
recent weeks, McGeoghan is still staggered by the sheer scale of the whole
"Besides overcoming the infrastructure problems of getting a
convoy of thirty service trucks from Thailand, we had to hire over a hundred
vehicles locally, put together a team of thirty interpreters, four hundred
extras and even build a village in Angkor Wat before filming could begin,"
The arrival of over 150 film crew, referred to by
Paramount's spokesperson Sue D'Arcy as "like an army on the move", has had what
the production's location manager Nick Ray says is a "great and desperately
needed" mini economic boom.
It was a boom, however, that some local
residents grumble could have been distributed around town more
Decisions to locate virtually the entire crew in the Thai-owned
Sofitel Royal Angkor, and Paramount's insistence that much of the on-set food be
flown in from Thailand meant that other locally owned hotels and food producers
were cut out of the supply market loop.
Extras take a break during the filming of Tomb Raider
Concerns about how the film
would portray Cambodia internationally were also proven to have been warranted.
As Angelina Jolie jumped and dived around Angkor over the course of
eight days of shooting in her role as Tomb Raider femme fatale Lara Croft, the
film's depiction of brightly dressed monks and seemingly idyllic villages
populated by people inexplicably wearing traditional Vietnamese hats, (much to
the annoyance of the locally hired extras) showed little awareness or
sensitivity to the reality of modern Cambodia.
Ang Choulean, spokesperson
for Apsara Authority, which is responsible for conservation of the Angkor
Complex, dismissed such criticism, calling it "ill-informed and thus
And although the film has been touted as a vehicle to boost
tourist arrivals to Angkor, Apsara has acknowledged complaints from tourists of
"rude and aggressive" treatment by film crew members during
However, in spite of an incident in which a film crew member
attempted to climb scaffolding to get on the temple roof, Apsara spokesperson
Ashley Thompson said the filming in no way harmed the physical integrity of the
Angkor Wat site.
"At this point we are completely satisfied with our
temple protection program, and our initial post-shoot reports show everything is
completely as it should be," Thompson said.
The real fragility of Angkor,
however, lies not in the stones themselves, but in its vulnerable image as an
emerging global tourist destination.
As tourists come to see Lara's
Angkor, where Cambodians dress in Vietnamese hats and live in a fishing village
on the steps of Angkor Wat, the temples will be framed by a new, contemporary
mythology, that might one day rival the original Angkorean myths of creation.
Tomb Raider tours, T-shirts and theme bars may well become the film's most
tangible legacy to nearby Siem Reap.
"We are unsure what the long-term
impact Tomb Raider will have," Choulean said, adding that he hoped the film will
raise international awareness of the threat to the temples posed by the illegal
While the physical structures survived Paramount and
Jolie, only after Tomb Raider's summer 2001 release will it be possible to judge
whether Lara's visit has protected, or indeed looted, the cultural value of