The number of German expats who find a new home in Cambodia is steadily rising. No wonder that German TV channel ZDF spent two weeks in the Kingdom to report about these people and their new lives in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampot and Sihanoukville. 7Days caught up with filmmaker Ole Apitius who was travelling with his cameraman Ralph Zeilinger and assistant Nicolai Kubicek.
Whom did you film in Cambodia?
Peter Willers, a retired army general, who came to Siem Reap four years ago to clear landmines. We also met Tanja and Frank Smolinski, typical expats who run the Bayon Garden Guesthouse in Siem Reap. In Kampot we portrayed baker Karen Ames from Salt and Pepper. In Sihanoukville we met the retired couple Christa and Bodo Gratz and the adventurer Robert Heiduczek who offers fun boat trips, but also supports an orphanage in Phnom Penh.
Are these German expats happy in Cambodia?
Yes, they are. Cambodia gives them the opportunity to realise their dreams faster, easier and better than their home country. However, you must be very brave and a kind of pioneer. If you fail in Germany, you will also fail in Cambodia.
Did you also film Khmer people?
I was deeply impressed by our German speaking Cambodian tour guide Tumlus Ho. He gave us a stunning interview about his life in the Khmer Rouge era. On our trip we met a lot of Cambodians who were very friendly, helpful and optimistic. Many Asian countries claim to be the “Land of smiles”, but I think this title belongs to Cambodia. Filming there was a pleasure and a great experience.
Which cities and places were the best filming locations?
Of course Angkor Wat is very impressive and a must-see for everybody. I regret that we did not have more time to visit the less well known temples in remote areas. I liked Phnom Penh as a pleasant Asian metropolis, and I see a lot of potential for tourism and business in Sihanoukville and the whole coastal area of Cambodia.
When will your work be broadcast on German television?
Probably in August or September 2012. There will be many short films about German expats in the show Hallo Deutschland, i.e. “hello Germany” on ZDF, but we also want to make a 30-minute version and hopefully some additional documentaries about Cambodia in general.
You know the Kingdom quite well now. Do you want to move here, too?
Well, I must ask my wife and my children first (laughs).
How could you convince them?
Cambodia is a little paradise with many opportunities for people who are willing to work. I witnessed a lot of development and pioneering spirits. If Cambodia does not repeat the mistakes of Thailand to turn the beaches into destinations for mass tourism with ugly skyscraper hotels, I could imagine to spend the evening of my life there – and I am sure that my family will be more than happy to come with me.