French director Régis Wargnier described his new film, The Gate, as the concluding part of his “communist utopia trilogy,” ahead of the Cambodian premiere in Phnom Penh last night.
Wargnier said the trilogy began 22 years ago with his Academy Award-winning 1992 film Indochine, a love story set against the backdrop of colonial Vietnam from the 1930s to the 1950s.
The Gate, which screened at Aeon Mall’s Major Cineplex last night, is a semifictional dramatisation of the memoir of anthropologist François Bizot, who was captured by the Khmer Rouge in 1971.
Bizot developed a relationship with his interrogator Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, who eventually released the Frenchman after being convinced he was not a spy.
“The films are very different,” he said. “Indochine was wide and a long feature, an epic movie, quite melodramatic, and this one is more tight, straight and more focusing on the relationship between two guys, a French man and Cambodian man.
“But there is also a common historical background which is the revolutionary utopia of communism.
“In Indochine we could see in the background the start of the revolution based on communist dogma. Then I directed a movie called East-West which was showing how to deal with life when communism is dictating life in the former USSR. And number three is utopia turned to tragedy, which is the Khmer Rouge.
“So I would say it’s a trilogy. And this one of course is number three. And I would say [that in each the focus is] closer and closer on the people. So it’s a very different feel, it’s a very special one, based on these two guys.”
A co-production between France’s Gaumont Film Company and Cambodia’s Bophana Production, the film was shot in Cambodia stars up-and-coming French actor Raphael Personnaz as Bizot and first-time French actor Phoeung Kompheak as Duch.
Last night’s premiere was attended by the Cambodian cast and crew as well as government officials and VIPs.
A jet-lagged Wargnier flew from France on Tuesday just to attend the film screening last night and planned to fly straight back today to attend another film festival.
“We really meant to be here,” he said. “It’s not a duty, it’s a pleasure. We realised the movie with them, all together, so it’s fair enough to be here to show the film to the people who worked on it, actors, technicians, co-producers. They were all really of great help.”
The Gate will screen again as part of the Cambodian International Film Festival which runs from December 5 to 10. See cambodia-iff.com for more details.