The 11th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF), which was inaugurated by Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona on June 28 at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall in Phnom Penh, attracted a record number of moviegoers upon its triumphant return from two years of pandemic-related postponements.
This was according to opening night remarks by CIFF director Cedric Eloy and Chea Sopheap, director of the Bophana Center.
“We are both pleased and surprised by the presence of so many Cambodians and foreigners. On behalf of the organisers, I would also like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to those who could not attend the event due to overcrowding. We hope that you all will enjoy watching the films selected by the festival, both Khmer and foreign. The festival will run at participating cinemas from June 28 to July 3,” said Eloy.
Sopheap said Covid-19 had severely affected the film industry in Cambodia as well as the rest of the world. In Cambodia, cultural and film activities had been shut down or restricted for almost two years.
“We are very happy to be able to bring this festival, one of the biggest film events in Cambodia, back this year. As this year’s event coincides with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Cambodia, the Australian embassy has selected the festival to further strengthen bilateral relations in the field of arts and culture. This is being done through a programme called Panorama of Australian Cinema, which features a production collaboration called “Buoyancy”, a 2019 Australian film directed by Australian Rodd Rathjen,” he said.
“Australian producer James Gerrand, who made Cambodian films in the 1970s, and Allison Chhorn, a Cambodian-Australian filmmaker and multi-talented artist, have also joined us for the first time this year,” he added.
To celebrate the anniversary of diplomatic relations, there will also be screenings of about 20 Australian films produced between 1952 and 2022.
“These films have community-related stories and are educational films that address issues related to the environment and Mekong water management, agriculture, indigenous peoples and gender equality,” Sopheap said.
Reth Sarita, former Miss Universe Cambodia 2020 who was also present at the festival, announced her pleasure at the event.
“After missing out for two years due to Covid-19, we can finally meet again at the 11th Cambodia International Film Festival,” she said.
Meu Samai, a graduate student from the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) who was attending the film festival for the first time, shared his exuberance: “I am very excited because I have never been to this programme before. The festival is screening more than 100 Khmer and foreign movies and they are all free admission!”