When the Cambodian International Film Festival (CIFF) began in 2009, finding relevant films to screen was something of a struggle, according to Cambodian Film Commission chief executive Cedric Eloy.
Now in its third year, the festival has reached 60 per cent local content, much of it due to the Kingdom’s increasing popularity as a location for foreign film production, many using Khmer technicians and actors.
This year the six-day festival program is richer and better than ever, organisers say, with more than 50 films, including features, shorts, documentaries and a re-vamped silent film, Georges Melies’ 1902 A Trip to the Moon, with live music by the Cambodian Space Project.
Cambodian highlights include international feature films set and filmed in the Kingdom, and 10 short films by young Khmer film-makers working here or within the diaspora.
Eloy picked Beautiful Heart, by young up-and-comer Rithea Phichith and Paulina by Khmer-American Caylee So as particularly strong productions.
Two feature films, Comfortably Lost (USA-France) and Two Shadows (USA) – both road movies – explore Cambodia through outsiders’ eyes and will have first-time local screenings at the CIFF.
“We are very curious to know how these road movies will be reviewed. They have something in common: people from abroad visiting Cambodia with fresh eyes and all the strangeness that is felt,” Eloy said.
The Final Sleep, a ghost story by US-raised Cambodian director Puth Por, is one of the most hotly anticipated features at the festival and its high production quality will “raise the standard” of Khmer films, Eloy believes.
Most of the feature films shot here never reach Cambodian audiences and the festival – which is entirely free – also offers the local film crew-members the opportunity to see the finished products.
As well as local-content films, the festival will run international films from the Asean region, including Ang Lee’s Life of Pi and films from Laos, the Philippines and Indonesia – and a selection of African cinema.
Details for the 90-plus screenings can be found in the full program, out today, as well as trailers, at the Cambodian International Film Festival's website.