Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Film culture should precede film industry



Film culture should precede film industry

Film culture should precede film industry

Dear Editor,

Yesterday, the Kingdom launched its first international film festival. Not long before at Chinese House there was a passionate celebration of the bygone golden age of Cambodian cinema. But there’s a phrase that kept recurring in both – “sustainable film industry”. It troubles me. A sustainable industry for a country that produces just a handful of films a year? Is that a realistic goal?

Perhaps what Cambodia needs is not so much a film industry (an industry which has eluded most countries with a population of less than 200 million), but a vibrant and supported film culture. A film culture where new voices are encouraged, risks are conceived and training is provided for the first tentative steps.

We learn from our mistakes. We don’t ask school children to write novels or paint like Picasso; we ask them to paint a picture or tell a story. We offer encouragement. We know that mistakes will be made along the way. But we appreciate that in the mistakes, the greatest lessons are learned.

Creativity can’t be taught. It can’t be bought. It can only be nurtured. And there is an evident need to nurture a new generation of young Cambodian filmmakers and support them through their first efforts.

Cambodia may buy equipment, train technicians and catalogue its stunning locations for visiting filmmakers. Will that achieve the elusive goal of a sustainable film industry? Personally, I doubt it. There may be some trickle-down skills transfer, lessons learned from visitors to the Kingdom. But one thing is sure – they won’t be Cambodia’s stories.

For that, you need to encourage Cambodia’s storytellers. For the price of one camera you can train a score of writers. You might not succeed immediately, but if you inspire a new generation of visual storytellers to try, the Kingdom will be further down the road to a vibrant film culture.

At the same time, government can’t talk about an industry on one side and then regulate the content on the other. That freedom of expression may result in negative portrayals of the Kingdom. But it will also give a new generation of voices the confidence to try.

Did the Romanian film 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days result in a negative attitude to Romania, or did it make international audiences think instead of Romania as a country with a strong film voice, culturally alive and proud?

Let new voices speak. Let them make mistakes. Let them find their way. Let them be critical, let them be patriotic. But mainly, let them be free to speak.

Otherwise, Cambodian audiences will be left with a decade of NGO-sponsored social realism on their screens and a nostalgic bitterness for a bygone age of film.

Ian Masters
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: [email protected] or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

MOST VIEWED

  • First Khmer woman to pass out of West Point

    The life of a soldier certainly isn’t for everyone. The training is gruelling, the hours long and there’s no room for excuses. On top of that, soldiers must be ready to respond to sudden threats at a moment’s notice. Just ask Sithyka

  • Tourists urged not to skip trip

    The Ministry of Tourism has called on international tourists not to cancel trips to Cambodia, but urged them to adhere to several dos and don’ts when arriving in the Kingdom during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ministry released an eight-point instruction manual on Wednesday published

  • The taxman cometh – Cambodia’s capital gains tax casts the net on individual taxpayers

    In a country where only limited personal income tax existed, the new taxation law beginning January 1, 2021, will make taxpayers out of Cambodians, whether they are ready for it or not About two years ago, a little known amendment was made to Article 7 of the Law

  • Cambodian-American gets Star Trek treatment

    Kevin Ung, a Cambodian-American whose family escaped genocide during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, was recently selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s inaugural 2020 Star Trek Command Training Programme, a course intended to give hands-on filmmaking experience

  • Cambodia seeks to be transport hub

    Cambodia is working on several fronts to modernise its transport infrastructure and services, concentrating on opening new international gates to relieve and balance traffic congestion at its borders, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said on Thursday. This is part of the Kingdom’

  • Deminers unearth ancient lion statue

    Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana told The Post on Tuesday that a statue of a lion was found by mine clearance experts while they were digging for a development project. It was sent to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts last