Chou’s Diamond Island wins prize in Cannes

French-Khmer filmmaker Davy Chou’s feature Diamond Island, which stars first-time actor Nuon Sobon (left) as Bora, has won the Critics’ Week SACD prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo supplied
French-Khmer filmmaker Davy Chou’s feature Diamond Island, which stars first-time actor Nuon Sobon (left) as Bora, has won the Critics’ Week SACD prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo supplied

Chou’s Diamond Island wins prize in Cannes

French-Cambodian filmmaker Davy Chou’s feature Diamond Island has won the SACD prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival’s International Critics’ Week sidebar.

The award, chosen by members of the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques – which comes with a €4,000 prize – was announced on Friday.

Diamond Island is a coming of age story about 18-year-old Bora who leaves his village in Kampong Chhnang to work on the construction sites of Koh Pich (Diamond Island) in Phnom Penh where he encounters his estranged older brother who introduces him to the world of Cambodia’s emerging middle-class youth.

Chou said yesterday that he had not yet decided what he would do with the money.

“But you know as a filmmaker you don’t get to have a regular salary, especially with the choice I made not to make commercials in order to focus on my personal projects only, so money is always welcome to survive!” he said via email yesterday. “I’m mostly happy the film has pleased the SACD jury; it’s an honor for me, in regards of all the great films selected at the Critics’ Week.”

Chou described the whole experience at Cannes as “fantastic and memorable”.

“It was only last week, but it already seems like ages ago,” he said. “It was very intense, pretty stressing but I am especially happy I get to share that moment with three of the main actors and part of the team. The film was also very well received so it makes this whole experience really magic.”

With Cannes now behind him, Chou said he planned to take some time to “relax”.

“I need few months doing nothing but rest, as I believed I was 24h/24h on diamond island for the last two years,” he said. “I have many different ideas for a next film to direct, but also for films to produce, so I just need a little time and things will get clearer very soon.”

Diamond Island has received praise after premiering at Cannes along with Rithy Panh’s new film Exile.

Trade publication Variety described Diamond Island as an “encouragingly ambitious first feature film on a technical level” and while perhaps not destined for great commercial success, “a healthy festival life seems assured and the film should act as a visually memorable calling card for Chou’s burgeoning directorial skills”.

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