The Perfect Motion, or Tep Hatta in Khmer, was premiered in the presence of His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni on March 26. Held at Chaktomuk Conference Hall, the screening also served to officially open the 12th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF).

The Perfect Motion, an 86-minute documentary, follows two intertwined storylines: the creation of a show called Metamorphosis by the late Princess Norodom Buppha Devi (her very last production) and the history of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, which dates back to 1906.

“The CIFF was officially launched with a screening of The Perfect Motion, directed by Xavier de Lauzanne,” said Chea Sopheap, executive director of the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre.

He added that the festival is the largest and most popular film event in the Kingdom.

“It showcases a wide range of films and welcomes filmmakers and guests from around the world. The festival is a bridge between filmmakers, technicians, artists and domestic and foreign audiences,” he said.

Director Lauzanne and producer Pierre Kogan, an art lover and film maker who has lived in Cambodia for eight years, worked on the project for half a decade.

“Five years ago, almost to the day, in this same hall, Her Royal Highness – the late Princess Norodom Buppha Devi – presented to Your Majesties her ballet Metamorphosis which went on to tour France and Switzerland successfully,” said Lauzanne, at the opening ceremony.

“By dedicating to her last creative work to Your Majesties, the princess kept alive the thousand-year-old link between royalty and the ballet. These are the opening images of the film that I have the honour of showing you this evening,” he added.

The French director said the value of art is its universality.

The Perfect Motion is not only about Cambodia, but also about the essential link between the identity of people and artistic creativity,” he added.

“Sok Nalys, one of the young dancers in the film said ‘when culture withers the nation crumbles away. When culture flourishes the nation thrives.’ The ballet helped to restore the dignity of Cambodia after the cruelty and deprivation of the Khmer Rouge era. This film pays tribute to all who had a part in the return of culture and light,” he continued.

In order to reach the widest audience, he explained that the film has been dubbed into Khmer.

“Every interview that was originally in French or English has been dubbed, so the film will be accessible to all Cambodians,” he said.

He also pointed out that this was the first time a film in Cambodia will be released with an educational kit. This was created in collaboration with the culture and education ministries.

The kit is designed for ease of use by teachers. It offers guidance and activities for different student grades, and will be used alongside screenings as an educational tool. It will be made available in Khmer, English and French, and will be free to download.

“The film ends with these words from the ballet mistress Sophilin Cheam Shapiro – ‘Should this timeless art disappear it would be a loss not only for Cambodia but also for the whole world.’ The film pays tribute to the late princess, an exceptional woman who did so much for the Royal Ballet and for the Kingdom’s cultural heritage,” added Lauzanne.

He offered thanks to the sponsors who made the five-year project possible.

“This film was entirely financed through extensive fundraising in Cambodia. We would like to thank The Peak, AEPK (Amicale des Étudiants en Pharmacie et des Pharmaciens Khmers), Bred Bank Cambodia, Vattanak Beer and Rosewood Phnom Penh, the European Union to the Kingdom of Cambodia, All Dreams Cambodia and Kulen water, who were our main sponsors,” he said.