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Student films turn the lens on some of the Kingdom’s greatest problems

A still from "When the Dam Built: Areng Valley’s Dam and Its Impact to the Community"
A still from "When the Dam Built: Areng Valley’s Dam and Its Impact to the Community", one of the films playing at DMC on Friday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Student films turn the lens on some of the Kingdom’s greatest problems

Eight documentaries produced by media students under the title “No Comment Cambodia Part III” paint a troubling picture of some of the Kingdom’s myriad problems – from the crumbling of decades-old colonial buildings to the potential devastation of the Areng Valley by a planned dam.

Each of the films, which were shot and edited by third year students from Department of Media and Communication (DMC) at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, addresses a different social issue in the Kingdom.

They will be screened on the campus on Friday evening.

This year is the third year that the program has run. Previous efforts have honed in on the various impacts of the Khmer Rouge regime as well as slum issues and gender disparities.

“This year, we wanted to update and document controversial issues happening in the country, such as politics, social issues, environment, health, religion, culture and arts,” said Touch Yinmony, a lecturer at DMC.

Titles include: Mob Killing (A Case in Takeo Province); Still Remaining: French Colonial Architecture in Cambodia and Down the River: Life on the Tonle Sap Lake.

The films, which are between six to eight minutes long, are without a narrative voice. When asked why the decision was made to exclude the voice of the producers, Yinmony said it was “to keep balance and facts”.

“The producers try to combine facts and voices from sources – it’s a more cinematic way of telling a story,” he said.

Seng Vibol, the 22-year-old producer of Down the River, said his film was intended to address the poor living conditions among river-dwellers in Pursat province.

“Our documentary talks about the life of people on the river in Kampong Luong floating village and describes the difficulties of transportation, sanitation, water, food and toilets,” he said.

The documentary about French colonial architecture homes in on Battambang, whose heritage quarter houses hundreds of important buildings including shop-houses, mansions built during the protectorate and examples of New Khmer Architecture. The government in June announced they planned to request Battambang be listed as a UNESCO heritage city.

Still Remaining puts the debate around preservation efforts under the spotlight.

“We wanted to document about that problem – because some people wanted to preserve it and others had negative thoughts and didn’t want to preserve those buildings,” explained producer Hak Sreynith, 21.

She hopes that, on Friday, her film will catch the audience’s attention and help to bridge the gap between the desires of people and government.

Lecturer Yinmony said: “I am sure those documentaries are important to show real issues or problems, and if more people, especially young people, can produce more personal interest stories, it will be a good sign.”

The films showing on Friday are: Down the River: Life on Tonle Sap Lake; When the Dam Built: Areng Valley’s Dam and Its Impact to the Community; In the Green: Life of a Garbage Worker; Toch’s Story: The Challenges of Children’s Malnutrition in Cambodia; Second Home: The Association of Homeless Old People in Cambodia; Mob Killing (A Case in Takeo Province); Religious and Legal Backgrounds of Self-Justice; One String: The Slow Death of Khmer Traditional Instrument; and Still Remaining: French Colonial Architecture in Cambodia.

"No Comment Cambodia Part III" will screen on Friday evening at the Department of Media and Communication at the Royal University of Phnom, starting from 5:30pm.

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