Battambang-born artist Poy Chhunly has been waiting a long time to fulfil his dream of making his own movies full-time after returning to the Kingdom from France following his graduation from a film school back in 2014.
His first short animated film Revive won first prize at the 2007 Cambofest Film Festival and has been screened at several national and international film festivals in countries such as the US, France and Laos.
Over the years, he’s been working as a drawing and animation teacher at the Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) art school and engaged in a variety of other creative film and video projects, but his aspirations to make his own films had to be put on hold – first due to financial difficulties and then because of the pandemic.
Chhunly first started working on his animation skills in 2002 following his graduation from PPS with a degree in painting after studying there for four years.
From 2007-2011, Chhunly was the director of PPS’s 1000 Hands Animation Studio. He then headed to France’s Ecole Pivaut School in Nantes from 2011-2014 to further hone his animation and film skills.
Upon his return, he worked as an animation teacher at PPS from 2014-2017 while serving as the studio’s director of film production, until finally in 2018 he started Poy Studio on his own.
Chhunly is more focused than ever these days on completing his first feature-length film – and eventually, he hopes – opening a film school in his hometown of Battambang.
“From Monday to Friday, I go and film on location and then I work on editing the footage at night in my small studio. On weekends, I teach composition skills at Wat Po Veal to monks and youths, which is a job that I totally love doing.
“Working seven days a week, 18 hours a day, is a little tiring – but it is fun because it’s a valuable use of my time and I’m helping the younger generation and building a stronger country for all of us to live in,” Chhunly, 41, tells The Post.
Chhunly – often called “Khmer Pacquiao” by his friends due to his strong resemblance to Filipino boxing champ Manny Pacquiao – said that he’s been saving money for about ten years now in order to complete his film.
“I started saving money for film equipment in 2008 and just this year I purchased a moderately priced set-up, but that still cost me over $4,000. However, now that I have it, I’ve been able to get jobs working on all sorts of projects including documentaries, TV series, movies and short films,” he said.
Chhunly said he’s currently working on two projects at his film studio. One is related to agriculture and requires that he film in rural areas of Battambang and Oddar Meanchey provinces and it will take around six months to complete. The second project is still up in the air and being negotiated.
“On weekends, I also shoot footage for my own film that I’ve been working on long-term and I edit it at night in my own Poy Studio. I’m preparing to enter it into contests abroad after it’s finished. As far as producing that film, I am not sure yet when it will be finished, but I wrote the script a long time ago,” he said.
Though Chhunly’s was motivated to start his studio in 2018 in order to fulfil his dream of creating his own independent work, he also wants to partner with local or foreign companies with the goal of expanding the film production industry in Cambodia and improve the level of quality to meet its full potential.
“If there are any partner companies in this field who are interested, I would be delighted to accelerate my dreams of opening a film school in Battambang. Once we have a film school, we will become rich in terms of human resources for making films. Once those are abundant there will be more competition for jobs and that will lead to the highest quality candidates being selected,” he said.