FILM buffs are being given a rare and exciting glimpse into both the history of Cambodia
and the artform itself this week.
As part of the worldwide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first public
cinema showing, the French Cultural Center has organised screenings of some of the
oldest films in existence.
Added to the purely historic value of the movies is the fact that all the ones being
shown were made in Cambodia.
In 1899, just four years after France's Lumiere brothers invented the magical artform
that has in the last century become a worldwide, multi-billion dollar industry, one
of their cameramen, Gabriel Veyre, arrived in Phnom Penh to capture on celluloid
scenes from everyday Khmer life.
Eight of his works were viewed by a captivated audience of over 400 at the French
embassy on Jan 20.
The crowd was equally entertained by a 10-minute film made in 1927 by Jacques
Entitled "In the Land of the Leper King", the film had only been shown
once previously back when it was originally made.
Unearthed from almost forgotten archives, the film was completly restored for its
neo-premier in Phnom Penh.
From scenes of monks at Angkor Wat to parades of regal elephants to clips of everyday
life in rural villages, the various sequences are both stunning as reminders of the
similarities with current Cambodian culture and as evocative glimpses into the depth
of the Khmer past.
All the films will be screened for the public tomorrow in front of Wat Botum at 7pm.
For anyone with even a passing interest in Cambodian history or culture, seeing them
is an absolute must.