From serene meditations on Irish waterways to violent wrangles over drinking water, the alternately peaceful and politically charged subject of rivers will be the focus of Cambodia’s annual European Union Film Festival.
The film festival, in its 11th year, will feature 10 films produced in countries throughout the European Union, all related to the theme of rivers.
It’s a subject that hits close to home as the Mekong River comes under pressure from dam projects and the potential impact of climate change.
Plans by Cambodia’s neighbour Laos to build hydropower dams on the Mekong and its tributaries have gone ahead despite objections from the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments and protests from environmental activists.
The need to value natural resources was a key factor in the choice of the “river” theme for this year’s festival, according to Jean-François Cautain, ambassador of the European Union to Cambodia, who organised the festival.
“We feel in the European Union that it is important to show that water and rivers, such as the Mekong for example, are important resources that we must manage wisely,” he said.
Last night, the festival was set to get under way with its first screening: Spain’s Even the Rain, a 2010 drama about a film crew caught up in Bolivia’s 2000 Cochabamba protests over the privatisation of the local water supply.
Not all of the 10 films shown present rivers in such a serious light.
“We would have hoped to have had all environmental movies, but some of our member states had difficulties to find the right movies for that,” said Cautain.
The Czech Republic’s contribution, The Rafters (Raftaci), centres on a pair of hormone-driven teenage boys who stumble across an all-girl rafting camp on a family vacation.
Ireland’s entry, the hypnotic Dreamtime Revisited, blends the recorded talks and lectures of a philosopher with sweeping vistas over Irish waterways.
France, meanwhile, picked D’amour et d’eau fraîche, which follows the story of an A+ graduate who falls in love with a criminal.
The title of the movie uses a very famous expression in French meaning ‘to live on love alone’ but also references water, Nicolas Baudouin, first secretary at the French embassy, said.
“The film also offers a contemporary perspective on some of the challenges facing graduates in France which in many ways mirror the challenges faced by young Cambodians today,” he added.
The theme of the festival was intended to be broad, Cautain added, to incorporate films about other ideas implied by a river: travel and interconnectedness – last year’s focus.
“We now have 28 countries where any citizen can move from one country to another. The idea is to promote this idea of being able to choose to move around,” he said.
“Moving around freely means you can meet people who don’t live where you live, who are not living where you live, who are not thinking what you think.”
Cautain said it was also important to showcase European cinema for the sake of cultural exchange.
“The festival’s purpose is also to show that the European Union countries are diverse and are producing excellent movies. What I would like is to give Cambodians the wish to travel to Europe.”
The festival’s showings were all selected by their respective country’s embassies in Phnom Penh, Bangkok or Hanoi. Movies from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden are all represented.
The films will be screened at Institut Français du Cambodge from through May 12 in their original languages with English subtitles, and Platinum Cineplex from May 20 to May 28 with both English and Khmer subtitles. All screenings will be free.