After a year of rigorous filmmaking, a local big-budget film – The Clock: Spirit Awakening – will be entertaining international audiences in at least six Asean countries in December.
The movie, which premiered in Cambodia last week, had a crew of international actors, actresses and production staff, with a budget of $400,000. It will be screened in Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.
Director-cum-producer Leak Lyda of LD Picture Productions is still in talks with cinemas in other countries to present the movie to a wider audience.
This ambitious film project is not solely about making a profit, but more on reviving the Cambodian movie industry’s status in the region.
During the premiere of his recent work, Lyda told The Post: “The premiere of The Clock reminded me of the time I produced my first film Ab [Fog Ghost] Wears a Helmet in 2012.
“At that time, many friends laughed at me for trading my car for money to invest in producing the movie when the local motion picture industry had collapsed and people did not favour local films.
“Then I was mocked again when I decided to invest in producing The Clock as many people did not expect me to get anything in return. But for me, it’s not only about money, it’s about passion and doing what I like,” he said.
Inspired by the famous Hungarian composition Gloomy Sunday (also known as the Hungarian Suicide Song), The Clock is very different from what Lyda has produced in the past.
The 37-year-old director from Kampong Thom significantly increased the budget to get the best quality out of the story, screenwriting, cast, props, location, performance, editing and marketing. He was projecting the movie to the international market.
The Clock: Spirit Awakening is set in the 1940s, when a French woman played by Charlotte Van Hollebeke was in a state of depression. She commits suicide following her boyfriend’s death.
He was a clock engineer and in her sorrow, her soul “stayed” in the timepiece and possessed a depressed girl who was mentally and physically abused by her stepmother.
Although the movie is of a horror genre, the storyline is entertaining and highlights the issue of depression, which affects children too.
The domestic violence scenes in the movie made actress Yem Sreypich, who played the stepmother in the movie, feel uncomfortable during filming.
“As a stepmother, I had to slap and hit my stepdaughter. It was acting but to make it look real, the girl had a bruised and swollen face,” she says.
Another challenge was the language barrier. Nou Ousaphea, who plays the role of a French girl’s boyfriend, had to work hard on his French script, although he doesn’t speak the language.
“For me, the hardest part was saying my lines because I had to work on my pronunciation. Luckily a Frenchman in the team was there to assist me,” he said.
Another actor, Sorn Piseth, who plays the role of a man with two wives, said he had a deep connection with the script. He said he was very emotional whenever he rehearsed or was on set.
“In the film, I play a bad father and husband. The family issues surround me and my daughter was possessed by the ghost of The Clock. I was taken with the script and couldn’t stop my tears on the first day of filming.”
Producer Huy Yaleng praised the director for being brave to take a risk in investing huge resources and time into making this film. He hopes it will earn the local movie industry some recognition on the international stage.
Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department director Pok Borak echoed Yaleng’s comment. He said the growing quality of local films is a good sign for the movie industry in Cambodia.
For Lyda, to bring a film to the international cinema is not as challenging as making a quality film.
“I’m proud to be working with The Clock’s team, and I’ll continue to produce another quality film after I’ve saved enough for the next big project. So stay tuned,” he said.
The Clock: Spirit Awakening will be screened in French and dubbed in Khmer with English subtitles.