A film festival screening Khmer cinema classics draws a huge response from youngsters, with hundreds gathering for the rock’n’roll closing party
Most of the filmmakers at that time portrayed their views of Cambodian lifestyle.
LIKE so many of of her generation, 25-year-old Visal is blown away by the visual creativity of a 1960s Cambodian film classic.
After watching the movie Putisen Neang Kong Rey (“12 Sisters”), produced in 1968 by filmmaker Ly Bun Yim, the student of Khmer literature is left wondering how filmmakers of Cambodia’s “Golden Age” created such fantastic scenes.
“It must have been difficult at the time to produce a movie without the technology we have today,” Visal says.
“But he [Ly Bun Yim] set perfect scenes like earth cracking and eye scratching.”
The film screened at Chinese House on October 17 at the beginning of the film festival “Golden Reawakening: Bringing the Age of Cambodian Film Back To Life”. During a week of screenings more than 1,000 people turned out to share Visal’s awe at the locally produced movies.
Dy Saveth, a Cambodian actress who starred in many productions at the time, explained how the filmmakers had made their own way in the world of cinema.
“Khmer films at that time were just developing. We didn’t have high technology,” she said. “We shot the pictures on film, which is costly, especially since everything was shot naturally, without effects, and heavily edited.”
She said the Khmer filmmakers did not tend to copy scripts or styles from other countries, but drew from their own traditions and culture.
“At most they developed some shooting and editing techniques which they’ve learned from overseas,” she said.
“Most of the filmmakers at that time portrayed their views of Cambodian lifestyle, with a particular focus on Khmer tradition and culture.
“I performed in movies with both modern and ancient themes.” But Dy Saveth said her films were no longer screened in Cambodia.
“This is the first ceremony, and I hope there will be more,” she said.
Festival curator Davy Chou, a French-Cambodian filmmaker whose grandfather, Van Chann, was a successful film producer of the era, said he was overwhelmed by the response.
“These nine days were amazing, and we really didn’t expect such a success,” he said. “I don’t think it is enough to have only one week screening for Cambodian cinema to re-emerge. Most of the young Cambodians have asked for more weeks of screening.”
Davy worked with a group of students and artists called Kon Khmer Koun Khmer (Cambodian Films, Cambodian Generation) to organise the festival, which wound up with Saturday night’s “Cambodian Rock ’n’ Roll Party” at Chinese House. The gig attracted hundreds of people, many dressed the part in clothing of the era.
Special guests included Dy Saveth, filmmakers Ly Bun Yim and Yvon Hem, Tea Kim – daughter of filmmaker Tea Lim Koun – and Sern Chan Chhaya, director of the Khmer Film Department at the Ministry of Fine Arts.
One of the few surviving filmmakers of the era, Ly Bun Yim expressed surprise at the level of interest shown by the youngsters.
“Until the rock ’n’ roll party tonight, I couldn’t believe that a young generation like you had created the idea of the film screening,” he said.
And with so many people gathered in such a small place, it was an emotional event. Festival organiser Prum Seila said many people had turned out with their families.
“When there were crying scenes in the film, they cried together. When there were laughing scenes, they laughed together,” he said.