Cambodia has taken the top prize at the Tropfest Southeast Asia short film competition for the second year in a row, with a story about a cancer-stricken child.
Filmmaker Ly Polen’s short 'Colourful Knots' was awarded the gong at a ceremony in Penang, Malaysia, on Sunday night.
The 25-year-old walked away with a $12,000 cash prize and a ticket to Los Angeles to meet industry heavyweights.
Polen was the runner-up at last year’s competition when 'Rice', the black and white silent film by fellow Cambodian Sothea Innes, claimed the top prize. Innes did not enter this year.
'Colourful Knots' tells the story of a wealthy young girl who, after she is diagnosed with cancer, befriends and exchanges gifts with two children who live on the streets and sell lotus flowers.
"I am really happy to join the competition again, and I didn't really expect to win, because the other films were really good, too," Polen said while accepting the award.
Second prize went to Filipino director Jake Soriano for his film 'The Steel Child', while another Cambodian filmmaker, Chap Somchanrith, picked up third prize for his Cambodian take on the Western genre, 'A Fistful of Pebbles'.
Somchanrith said he believed Cambodia’s success at Tropfest would benefit the local film industry as whole.
“When you show your films made by Cambodian filmmakers to a group of international audience [members], shorts or features, if it's good, it shows just how talented Cambodian filmmakers are and how much potential we have,” he said.
“I believe this opens doors and attracts producers to come to Cambodia and help produce even more films.”
Eleven countries submitted a total of 115 entries to the competition with five of the 16 shortlisted films hailing from Cambodia.
Cambodian filmmaker Chhay Bora, who was on the competition’s pre-selection panel, said Sunday’s event was “amazing”. The night featured a concert, and several thousand people watched the films on an outdoor screening.
“I dream of having something like it in Cambodia,” he said.
The storytelling, acting and cinematography of Polen’s film stood out amongst the rest of the entries, he said, but the quality of all the Cambodian entries was very high.
“The director of the festival cannot imagine that Cambodia doesn’t have a film school,” Bora said.
Tropfest started in 1993 in Sydney and is now the largest short film competition in the world, with legs in Australia, New Zealand, the US and the Middle East. The first Tropfest was held in Southeast Asia last year.
“Tropfest is all about celebrating creativity among talented filmmakers, and I am constantly inspired by the incredible films we receive,” Tropfest Southeast Asia managing director Joe Sidek said in a statement.
In a statement, Motion Picture Association Asia Pacific president Mike Ellis congratulated Polen on his win.
“These filmmakers offer fresh new voices to reflect the breadth of cultures in the region, and Tropfest will provide a launching pad that will connect their stories to a growing audience,” he said.