In an effort to preserve Cambodia’s rich cinematic history, the Department of Cinema and Cultural Diffusion under the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has partnered with the Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI) to carry out a comprehensive inventory of the 400 to 500 movies and documentaries in its archives.
The project aims to ensure that all of the films are in good condition and to identify any that may require digitalisation for preservation purposes.
Department director Pok Borak met with ACMI’s Ben Abbott and Candice Cranmer on April 24 to discuss the collaboration.
This project will be coordinated by the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre and the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh.
“The project focuses on the preservation of our precious archives. Until the 1980s, most of our productions were shot film. We have stored them ever since, but our storage facilities are not necessarily up to international standards,” said Borak.
He explained that due to a lack of facilities, the department was unable to examine the content of the stored films and assess their contents or condition. He believed the collaboration with ACMI would help to preserve the historically significant documents.
“The passage of time also necessitates that several of the films need to be reviewed and assessed for damage, and we need to determine whether or not they can be digitalised,” he said.
The film archives under review include a variety of international movies, some of which were produced in the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, as well as a collection of Cambodian-made movies and documentaries.
The partnership with ACMI is part of a broader effort by the Cambodian government to safeguard its cultural heritage.
“This project is critical for preserving Cambodia’s cultural heritage, particularly its documentaries which provide invaluable insights into the country’s history and social development,” said Borak.
“This work is extremely important. We are aware that many documentaries were lost due to war, and the deterioration of old film that was neglected as new technologies became available. If we can digitise the ones we have, we will preserve our documentary film heritage so that future generations can learn from it and understand where they came from,” he added.
He explained that inspecting one section of film could take a full hour, with up to 10 days needed to check and digitalise a complete feature film or full-length documentary.
He also suggested that the department is likely to seek further collaboration with the ACMI.
“We need to digitise every single one of our major national films and documentaries,” he said.
He added that even once they were digitalised, the original films needed to be stored carefully, a process which may require the expertise of the department’s Australian partners.
“Our work reflects the growing recognition of the importance of traditional film archives preservation in the digital age, and the need to ensure that future generations have access to the rich cultural history of the country,” he said.