The upcoming local film, Fathers, has drawn a huge social media following ahead of its premiere on January 30.
Directed and produced by Huy Yaleng of Kakthachey Film Production, the film follows the emotionally charged tale of a struggling father and his desire to support his children through his work as a cyclo (cycle rickshaw) rider.
With a storyline that underscores a diminishing yet an iconic form of transportation in the Kingdom, Yaleng hopes the film would also become a hit in other countries.
“This is the fourth film that I hope to introduce to screens overseas. The previous ones belonged to the horror genre,” Yaleng tells The Post.
“This film is different from my previous works because it is based on the real-life of a cyclo rider who lives in the capital’s Phsar Chas [Old Market] with his family. Despite having a prosthetic leg, the rider pedals his cyclo to support his two children.
“In the end, he had to sell his cyclo and even donate his blood for a price to pay for his severely ill child’s hospital bills,” says Yaleng.
His previous works – Vikalcharet, The Witch and The Torment of Ghost – were featured in Thailand, Lao PDR, Brunei, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, France and the US.
“They received a lot of support and positive feedback from the audience,” he recounts.
The upcoming film is set to grace the big screens of Thailand, Lao PDR, Brunei and South Korea.
However, the film is not targeted at city dwellers overseas. Instead, Yaleng has selected provincial towns and areas with a huge concentration of Cambodian migrant workers.
“I have chosen provinces in other countries with the most Cambodian residents because I want them to see a quality film made by a Cambodian production team,” he says.
Hailing from Banteay Meanchey province, Yaleng, who founded Kakthachey Film Production came to Phom Penh in 1998 to study the Arts and Long Stick Martial Arts.
He took on some minor acting roles before becoming a producer and director in 2003.
His directorial debut films, Ghost Bought a House and Ghost on the Banana Tree, became hit films in Cambodia.
In 2011, Yaleng founded his own film production company and vowed to continue making films until his last breath.
Fathers will be led by a cast which includes Yaleng himself and the masterful performances of veteran actor Kong Sophy and actresses Krama Princess Mean Sonyta and Chy Chhenhlin.
“This film will shed light on the real-life struggles of a cyclo driver – something we’ve never seen before. We see them on the road, travelling slowly with their rickshaws.
“We see them calmly pedalling every day. But we don’t see how miserably they must sleep every night.
“We fail to notice that they are debt-ridden. People have no idea what their daily meals look like – an egg with plain rice. They have to pedal their cyclos for a small amount of money to support their children’s education.
“I want to expand the audience’s understanding of these things and stir empathy for the poor cyclo riders. I hope this slice of life will inspire them somehow,” says Yaleng.
After the release of Fathers, Yaleng is set to take on the new challenge of producing an action film that aims to penetrate China’s film market.
However, he admits that with the limited budget and support from local audiences, competing with other countries will be a challenge.
“Our market and investment scale are still small. We cannot invest more than $100,000 for a film. The average budget stands at only $50,000-60,000.
“This film [Fathers] might not attract the younger generation because the youths generally prefer horror stories. Still, we have to keep making such educational films to be seen alongside other blockbusters,” he says.
While the journey to make a big-budget film is rough, Yaleng says he will continue to produce films of different genres to target viewers across all ages.
“I’ll continue to make films – be they in the horror, non-fiction or action genres. I want to diversify the audience’s tastes.
“My ambition is to see families excitedly coming to cinema houses to enjoy local films. I want Cambodian films to be recognised and earn fame in Asia. I want to see our local films find their way to Hollywood.
“But I cannot achieve these dreams alone. Realising them will require the contribution of other producers, directors and the audience’s support, especially the local viewers,” says Yaleng.
With two decades in the filmmaking industry and 20 films and dramas under his belt, Yaleng has grown to understand the importance of bringing local films to the international arena.
This, he says, will inspire other local producers to enhance the quality of their work to attract more viewers.
“As a producer, we always work towards bringing the fruits of our hard work to the international market. That way, people in other countries will have the chance to enjoy our films. And this will motivate us to keep improving,” he says.