Filmmaking duo Jean Philippe Petesch and Ann Sopoi have just wrapped production on a psychological drama that examines the scars the Khmer Rouge left on Cambodian society.
Produced by local outfit Khlakhmum, the 72-minute Chhem: My Son was inspired by an encounter Petesch had while at university in which a group of students denied that the Khmer Rouge genocide had happened, according to the film's first assistant director, Loy Te. It prompted the filmmakers to take on a subject many find it difficult to talk about.
“The new generations are indirectly victims of the post-war but are not recognised as such,” Te said. “This is all the pain that our main character, Chhem (played by co-director Sopoi), carries as he symbolises a generation that suffers in silence without knowing the reason.”
Te, who has French and Cambodian parents but grew up in Cambodia, cut his filmmaking teeth working on commercials and assisting on features such as Cambodian zombie apocalypse movie Run and bokator martial arts film Hanuman.
“This is a very different type of film,” he told Post Weekend. “It’s more of an indie art-house film that we’re looking to present to festivals this year.”
Te said Chhem: My Son was a team effort by a group of his friends, crowdfunded and took almost three years to complete but might never be released in the Kingdom because it touches on controversial topics such as religion and arranged marriage.
“Our intention was not to criticise the government, but there are difficulties that people face and we want to talk about them,” he said.
“We do hope we manage to screen it here in Cambodia, but it might not be approved by Ministry of Culture,” he added. “We will try nonetheless to release it, and probably at least show it during the Cambodia Film Festival.”
Te said he had turned to making feature films because the local industry was growing.
“I think it’s safe to say that all filmmakers here agree it’s time we see more stories developed for the big screen,” he said. “Plus, it’s a lot more rewarding to see your work featured on the big screen.”
Now with Chhem: My Son in the can, Te is about to start post production on another horror/thriller movie that will be followed by a stunt-filled action film titled Jailbreak.
He also has plans to work on a romantic comedy later in the year.
“I get to play around with many different topics,” he said.
“It’s actually very interesting to experiment with various genres. Each shoot is different from the other.”