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Film Festival a boon to Sofitel hotel

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Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort general manager Fabrice Ducry wants to promote cultural events like the festival. Photograph: Miranda Glasser/Phnom Penh Post
The schedule has just been announced for the second Angkor Wat International Film Festival, running from February 1-3, 2013. The line-up includes a Korean love-story directed by the late King Sihanouk, and an award-winning documentary about a US octogenarian choir that performs rock songs.

The festival takes place at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort and admission is free to all the screenings. Co-organiser Dr Thomas Vendetti is keeping the same theme as last year – each of the 30 features, shorts and documentaries will deal in some way with the preservation of culture and environmental topics.

Sofitel general manager Fabrice Ducry says the hotel is hosting the festival for the second year running because, “We are always trying to get more involved with anything that has to do with cultural events. Everything related to arts, whether it is cinema, art or writing.

“Thomas Vendetti’s objective is to try to develop more interest in movies here in Cambodia because especially in Siem Reap there are not many places showing films.”

Ducry adds that a key factor for Emmy Award-winner Vendetti was ensuring that all the films were free to attend, so that everyone would have the chance to come.

“He wants to try and encourage Cambodian people’s interest in films. At the very beginning we were a little bit sceptical because we were afraid that the venue – a big, five-star hotel –  would scare some of the population away. But funnily enough we were very happy to see last year, in front of our ballroom, a line of bicycles parked in front belonging to people coming to watch.”

Overall, he says, the festival attracted an average of 50 people per screening last year, an even mix of expats and  Khmers.

“What really triggered the idea of pursuing this festival was the turnout of the local population,” says Ducry. “From the feedback that we managed to get, some of them had never really seen movies like this.

“This year there will a little bit more focus on movies that relate to Cambodia. Last year we had only two, this year there are four or five films.”

One of these films is Adieu Mon Amour, directed by King Norodom Sihanouk in 1988. It is a love story filmed in Korean with English subtitles. Also showing is Brother Number One, a New Zealand documentary about the murder of New Zealander Kerry Hamill by the Khmer Rouge in 1978. In the film, his brother Rob, an Olympic rower, retraces his steps, interviewing eyewitnesses and survivors.

The festival’s opening film is still under discussion but is likely to be One Day on Earth. The 2012 documentary comprises 3000 hours of footage from all over the world filmed over the same 24-hour period, October 10, 2010 – a video time capsule, if you will.

The film took four years to make and involved 19,000 film-makers both professional and novice, including UN workers from 95 different country offices who filmed footage of remote villages in places such as Papua New Guinea and South Sudan.

This year the team has decided to drum up interest pre-festival by having a day of taster screenings in Phnom Penh, scheduled for January 27.

“In order to create a little bit more buzz around it,  there will one day of screenings at the Sofitel in Phnom Penh,” says Ducry.

“It will be the pre-opening ceremony of the Angkor Wat International Film Festival. We realised that to create more awareness we needed to have government support, so we decided to create a pre-event in Phnom Penh. Then the word is out there that this is happening in Siem Reap.”

For the full festival listings please see the Angkor Wat Film Festival website.

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