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Tropfest selection panel gives Cambodian films stamp of approval

Colourful Knots is the entry from past runner-up Ly Polen.
Colourful Knots is the entry from past runner-up Ly Polen. Photo Supplied

Tropfest selection panel gives Cambodian films stamp of approval

New perspectives from Cambodian filmmakers ensure that almost a third of films shortlisted for Tropfest Southeast Asia are from the Kingdom

Cambodia is once again punching above its weight at Tropfest Southeast Asia: five out of the 16 films shortlisted for this year’s competition are from the Kingdom.

Last year, local filmmakers won both first and runner-up prizes at the regional leg of the short film festival, which is also held in Australia, New Zealand, the US and the Middle East.

Eleven countries submitted a total of 115 entries for the February 2015 festival, according to festival organisers, who said that Cambodia had impressed with its focus on stories about everyday lives.

“There’s a great deal of soul in all the films,” said Joe Sidek, managing director of Tropfest Southeast Asia.

“In general, the entries we get from Cambodia tackle quite weighty social issues and have a generally more reflective tone.”

Entrants are asked to submit a film less than seven minutes long featuring a “signature item”, which this year is a wheel. The winner of the Southeast Asian contest will receive $12,000 cash and a trip to Los Angeles for a week of meetings with film executives.

Ly Polen, who was runner-up last year with his $100 short film Duetto, crowdfunded $1,800 through the website Indiegogo to make this year’s entry, titled Colourful Knots.

Duetto, a silent movie filmed in black and white, follows a violinist who loses an arm in a traffic accident, and Polen said Colourful Knots retained the sentimentality characteristic of his work.

“It’s about a friendship between two poor children and a girl from a rich family,” he said.

The other Cambodian films to make the shortlist are A Fistful of Pebbles (Somchanrith Chap), The Scavenger (Sothea Chhin), Bubble (Hang Sokharo), and The Ride (Sok You Chea).

Polen said Cambodia’s success at Tropfest could be due to the fact that the Kingdom’s film industry is still in its infancy and its filmmakers have plenty of stories to tell that people have never seen before.

“We have something fresh,” he said. “Maybe every country has a different mentality, perspective, belief, and maybe Cambodia has something really unique to tell [through its]stories.”

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