This week saw the launch of a crowd-funding campaign to finance filming and post production on the first documentary ever made about Vann Molyvann’s life and legacy. The Man Who Built Cambodia, by filmmakers Christopher Rompré and Haig Balian of Little Big Film, will be a half-hour film that the duo hopes to unspool at the Chaktomuk Theatre – one of Molyvann’s most iconic creations.
Unlike the majority of appeals for crowd funding, this is not a pipe dream waiting around for the money to make it happen. Rompré and Balian have already completed much of the filming – including several interviews with Vann Molyvann himself – thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Asia Foundation.
In November last year, they released the trailer for what they thought at the time was an almost completed documentary. It was the response to the short preview that changed things. “We started seeing how interested people were,” Rompré explains. Local cultural figures reached out to express their support, and the subject piqued the interest of a wider audience as well: the trailer already has over 10,000 hits online, which Rompré describes as “quite good” for a Cambodia-centric film. On the back of this unexpected reaction, the duo decided to dig deeper.
“We decided we wanted to go back and interview Vann Molyvann a few more times,” Rompré says, adding that because of the architect’s advanced age, he felt that time was of the essence: “His ability to tell these stories is diminishing over time.”
The new footage sees the architect reflecting on the current state of urban planning in the Kingdom.
The duo has opted for an all or nothing funding model on Indiegogo to raise the $15,000 they need, meaning that if they fall a dollar short they’ll get nothing. “It pushes those who are thinking about supporting to get behind us, rather than just a ‘pass the hat around’ kind of mentality,” Rompré explains.
And now that they’ve committed to further filming, hiring a professional colourist and commissioning a score for the film, Rompré thinks that making it for less than $15,000 isn’t really an option anyway. “It does sometimes feel like we got a tiger by the tail,” he says of the project’s escalation. “We started off so innocently.”