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Two sides of Cambodia to be shown at Cannes film festival

A still from Davy Chou’s short film, Cambodia 2099
A still from Davy Chou’s short film, Cambodia 2099. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Two sides of Cambodia to be shown at Cannes film festival

Two very different short films about Cambodia are set to screen during next month’s 2014 Cannes International Film Festival.

French-Cambodian filmmaker Davy Chou’s short Cambodia 2099, about three young Cambodians spending an afternoon on Koh Pich contemplating their futures, will be screened in the non-competitive but prestigious Directors’ Fortnight sidebar.

Meanwhile, Eviction, a short documentary by US father and son team Phil and Garret Atlakson about land grabbing, has been invited to compete in the American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase.

The Directors’ Fortnight sidebar and American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase are both independent programs held as part of the prestigious French film festival which this year runs from May 14 to 25.

Chou said he filmed Cambodia 2099 last year on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich with help from filmmaker Kavich Neang, painter Kun Sotha and first-time actress Vann Sothea.

“I didn’t know what the story would be about and just followed my instinct and inspiration, and also let everything I have observed or be part of for the last two months come all together,” he said.

“It was also great for me to try directing actors in Cambodia, as a rehearsal for the feature I’m currently writing,” he added.

He said it was too early to give many details on the feature except that he hoped to begin shooting by the end of the year and that it would be mostly filmed on Koh Pich as well.

Chou, who is best known for his documentary Golden Slumbers about Cambodia’s film industry in the ’60s and ’70s, said the Directors Fortnight selection was “amazing and unexpected news”.

“We made this film with the team very quickly, sharing energy and good will for three days and a half, which for me was an opportunity to work again with some people, start working with others, experimenting some technique or shots that I wanted to test. But I would never expect the film to go to Cannes.

“So I feel definitely lucky and I guess I still don’t know exactly what it means.”

Despite being filmed in Cambodia, Cambodia 2099 was submitted to Cannes as a French film.

“The country of the main production is giving its ‘nationality’ to a film, and Cambodia 2099 has been fully produced by my film company Vycky Films, based in Paris. So it’s normal that the film is considered French for Cannes,” Chou said.

When asked about the meaning of the film’s title, he was coy.

“I don’t want to give any spoilers, but let’s say that one of the characters in the film always dreams of travelling to the future, in the year 2099,” he said.

Garret Atlakson’s 20-minute documentary Eviction, which has already won several awards including the grand prize at the Poverty Cure International Film Festival in New York City, follows 72-year-old Boeung Kak resident Nget Khun whose home and livelihood are threatened by land developers backed by the government.

Atlakson said the award wins and the invitation to Cannes would help him achieve his goal of bringing attention to land grabbing in Cambodia and raising money to make a feature-length version of the film.

“In this way the short has succeeded,” he said.

He said shooting began on the longer version in November and could be completed next year.

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