A film with a six-figure budget about Minister for National Defence Tea Banh’s life growing up during the Kingdom’s turmoil in the 60s will begin its three-month filming process in October, aiming to bring the deputy prime minister’s story to the international stage.
Titled Chun Del Trov Ke Banh (Man Who Was Shot), the film is based on the true story of Banh’s challenging early life experiences.
Banh told The Post during a telephone interview: “This story, Man Who Was Shot, was first written as a book by General Nem Sowath. Many people who read the book asked me if they could make it into movie.
“Previously, I rejected their requests. But just a few years ago, a company contacted my son with a proper proposal and an artist’s portfolio, so I agreed. After a few years of pre-production, the movie has just announced it will start production.”
Banh, whose former name is Tea Sangvan, said he hoped his story would inspire young Cambodians to be brave and patriotic.
“The story that will be used for filming cannot reflect everything I’ve been through. They [the producers] chose only the important parts, especially the scene when I was arrested and shot. I cannot say how successful it is in portraying my life from 52 years ago because it has just started to be produced,” he said.
Produced by Banh’s sons, Tea Seiha, Tea Sayam and Bou Panha, the film will shed light on his experiences in 1965 in his hometown in Koh Kong province’s Toul Kaki commune.
Filming will also be conducted in what were conflict hotspots during the Cambodian civil war from 1968-75, including Phnom Penh and Kampong Speu, Kampot and Kampong Som (now Preah Sihanouk) provinces.
One of the film’s most important scenes depicts Banh’s arrest and attempted execution at Koh Kong province’s Koh Andet mountain. After being shot, Banh survived and ran from his captors, covered in blood and living in the forest for several days eating wild fruit.
The film’s director Kham Phouri has been working on the storyboard and script since November last year.
“Now we are busy with a storyboard and workshop to train our performing artists, specifically in how to act as a medic and soldier from the past. We also need to train some actors in the ancient Khmer martial art Bokator,” he said.
“After the training and workshop, the production team will start filming, and that can take between two to three months. We plan to finish filming at the end of this year.”
Actor Nou Ouksaphea will play Tea Sangvan (the young Banh) and actress Sim Sreynich will play comrade Tao Toeurn, Banh’s wife.
Among the 100 people featuring in the film is actress Sveng Socheata, who starred in Angelina Jolie’s 2017 blockbuster First They Killed My Father.
“This movie is one of the biggest for this year. It will start filming in October. During filming, we might have to close the post office [in Phnom Penh] for a short time and other settings that we are meticulously transforming back to scenes from the past. We want to focus on every detail to perfection. It’ll be a big hit when it premieres nationwide and it will appear in the international film market,” said actor Soun Piseth, who also stars in the film.
“The cost for the setting, props, furniture, vehicles and everything is very high. We have to make sure it looks like the 1960s. To make it look realistic, we have to spend $1 million.”
Piseth is also composing an original soundtrack for the film.
“I have two jobs in this movie. After the filming is finished, I will start composing the music. The theme music will be a mix of traditional instruments and an orchestra. It will be an exciting time in the next three months as I compose and write the music.”
The film’s release date is yet to be announced.
Additional Reporting by Mech Dara