Debut director hopes heist comedy "Gems" will be a hit

"Gems on the Run" follows the story of a gangster and a police officer who travel together in Cambodia
"Gems on the Run" follows the story of a gangster and a police officer who travel together in Cambodia. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Debut director hopes heist comedy "Gems" will be a hit

As children in the late ’90s, three friends Rith, Sovan and Dara promised one another that they’d grow old together, working at a restaurant on the beach. But circumstances have separated them, and 15 years later, Dara’s death brings Rith (played by Cheky Athiporn), now a police officer, and Sovan (Vandy Piseth), a gangster, together again. They are travelling through southern Cambodia, and Sovan is carrying $3 million worth of diamonds – without Rith’s knowledge.

That’s the premise of Kroab Pich, or Gems on the Run in English – a new Cambodian feature film co-directed by Sok Visal and Quentin Clausin that will premiere at the Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) this evening.

In an interview last week, the director said the film, a comedy, was also concerned with social and class relationships.

Visal said: “It’s a film about friendship, and about how everybody is born into different social situations. We have these three friends: One is a rich kid with a powerful father; another kid whose father is an abusive alcoholic so he’s a bit of a rascal – and the other kid, the one who dies, was like the mediator between them, trying to make peace.”

The film was shot in Cambodia, and its cast and crew are all Cambodian.

Visal said: “I wanted to make something for the local Cambodian market – something entertaining with a little bit of a moral about friendship. Also it’s about people who were born into different social classes but who managed to live together and understand one another.”

While Visal has directed music videos and TV commercials before, this is his first feature film. After his role as first assistant director on Clausin’s film Comfortably Lost two years ago, the two decided to co-direct a film together.

Visal, who is also a music producer, praised the recent revival of Cambodia’s film industry, explaining how before movie theatres such as Cineplex and Legend came to Phnom Penh, few films were made because demand was so low. But now they’ve arrived, the industry has been given a new lease of life.

He continued: “Local kids and young people are eager to watch Khmer movies – not all of them understand English, not all of them want to read subtitles. They want to watch movies they can relate to: Khmer actors, Khmer production, stories and so on.”

CIFF, which runs until tomorrow at various venues in Phnom Penh, aims to promote Cambodian cinema. Visal said: “I think the festival is beneficial for the film industry and for the community in general, and it will attract more and more people every year if it’s done right.”

Gems on the Run (Kroab Pich) will premiere tonight at 6:30pm at Legend Cinema. The film will also be shown on Thursday at 4:30pm at Platinum Cineplex.

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