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Malaysian director brings skills to Cambodia

Malaysian director brings skills to Cambodia

Malaysian film director Brando Lee, pictured above. Photograph: Stuart Alan Becker/Phnom Penh Post

Just after he wrapped up the shooting of a new Cambodian feature film, Malaysian director Brando Lee talked about his latest project, Have you ever loved me?, which will be released in Cambodian theatres in November.

Lee spent the last three weeks shooting what could be one of Cambodia’s most important new films, on a budget of roughly US$70,000 and starring Preap Sovath as a Cambodian doctor who becomes famous by saving the life of the American ambassador who suffers a heart attack.

Shot at locations including the Royal Rattanak Hospital in Tuol Kork and The Cambodiana Hotel, the film genre is described as a “suspense thriller” and also stars Cambodian actresses Keo Sreyneang and Saray Sakana.

The full-length feature film is scheduled to be released in cinemas in Phnom Penh at the end of November and then the producers are taking the film starting in January on a 10-province road show all around Cambodia, over the course of 10 weeks, ending just before Khmer New Year 2013.

Tom Willis Country Manager for A Plus Asia Networks says free concerts will accompany the screenings of the film on the road show.

“We haven’t fixed a price for movie tickets yet, but it will be affordable,” Willis said.

After Khmer New Year, the film will be released on DVD and VCD and distributed nationwide.

“Eventually, the film will be shown on a TV station with nationwide coverage, but we don’t know which one yet. Millions of Cambodians are going to see this film,” Willis said.

Leading male Preap Sovath is already well known to Khmer audiences from his starring role in the 2005 movie Crocodile.

Director Lee first came to Cambodia last July to shoot part of a Malaysian drama here.

“Since then I fell in love with Cambodia,” Lee said.

Lee says the talent in Cambodia is great and he noticed that the actors had exceeded his expectations from the first day of shooting.

“I think the Cambodian film industry has a very bright future,” Lee said.

All that remains on his current project is editing and Lee is looking for a film editor who speaks Khmer. Lee left yesterday for Kuala Lumpur but will return in two weeks to supervise the editing. He also wrote the screenplay.

A Plus Asia Networks is the executive producer of the film, in a joint venture with Brando Lee’s Company, B&L Creative.

Born in Kuala Lumpur in 1974, Lee was the only boy in a Chinese family with five sisters, and the middle child. The first film that made a big impression on him was Star Wars, which he saw when he was three years old. Other early memorable films for Lee were Jaws and Superman.

Lee grew up in a small town two hours from KL called Temerluh and began to enjoy Jackie Chan films when he was in school, and at the age of 12, announced to his mother he wanted to be a filmmaker.

“My parents never interfered with my decisions; they always let me do as I liked.”

After checking about requirements with the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, he finally arrived in Hollywood at the age of 19 in December, 1993. For three years he attended Columbia College in Hollywood, earning a degree in film production.

Some of his housemates from those days are now famous movie personalities including brothers Tony Bui whose film Three Seasons swept a number of awards at the Sundance Film Festival.

“This is a Vietnamese love story shot in Vietnam,” Lee said.

Bui’s older brother, Timothy Bui, directed Green Dragon with Patrick Swayze and Forrest Whittaker. Lee is happy to be friends with old classmates who made it.

“You want to be a director? Go to film school. It will help,” Lee said.

Lee left Hollywood in 1996 to open a production house in Kuala Lumpur in the midst of the Asian economic crisis, but had to close it down and go to work in a marketing job for industrial products.

Lee married a Burmese lady in 2002 and the couple have two children, a boy and a girl, age 10 and 5.

“After I got married I knew if I didn’t get back to film making immediately I would probably lose the chance to come back, because once I have kids, I have to face the reality of responsibility.”

That’s when a friend of Lee’s offered him a role in a stage play at the National Theatre in Kuala Lumpur called Rokih Rong Geng. Lee played a Chinese man, fighting on stage.

The role led to things which led to what’s happening today. Another friend introduced Lee to a Malay producer with his own production house. Lee took the job in 2004 and started making made-for-TV movies in the Bahasa Malay language.

He’s done three television movies since then, directed commercials, music videos, television dramas totaling more than 80 hours of different shows.

“A director’s job is instinct. You can’t teach someone that. Either you have it or you don’t.”

His next project Chinese film called Wira Wah, about a Chinese school teacher fighting for the survival of the Chinese school in a rural area in Malaysia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]


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