Following the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts’ move to ban the screening of I Am Chut Wutty at Phnom Penh’s Meta House Café on Monday, the venue’s founder yesterday said they planned to obey the directive.
The ministry maintained that it had blocked the screening because the filmmakers had not sought permission to make the documentary about the late forest activist – who was gunned down in 2012 – and because neither they nor Meta House had sought permission to show it.
In an email, Nico Mesterharm said “we can’t screen the film, as the ministry has ordered [us] not to. This is our responsibility as an I-NGO registered here – if we like it or not”.
Asked whether he planned to follow the ministry’s further instructions to seek permission for all future film screenings in general, Mesterharm contested the authorities’ interpretation of the Memorandum of Understanding.
The agreement, he said, “does not imply that we have to ‘get approval for all content for any and all future screenings’, but that we are following Cambodian law – and this is what we do”.
Ministry spokesman Thai Norak Satya yesterday maintained otherwise. He also said an application for a screening permit had not yet been received from director Fran Lambrick.
In an email, Lambrick said she intended to release the Khmer language version of the documentary free of charge over the next seven days as a series of shorts, and on YouTube in English on April 26 to mark the anniversary of Wutty’s death.
Meanwhile, renowned Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, in an email yesterday, voiced his displeasure over the screening’s ban.
“It is always sad to hear that a film is censored,” he wrote.
Separately, Not1More (N1M), a platform to help protect environmental activists who face personal risk for their actions co-founded by Lambert was launched yesterday.
“N1M launches by focusing on supporting the security of Cambodian environmental defenders, who are among the most at risk, worldwide,” according to the group’s press release, which also states that N1M was “founded in honor of slain Cambodian forestry activist Chut Wutty”.
The group’s website prominently features Wutty’s story as well as a campaign to free three activists with the NGO Mother Nature who were detained over their anti-sand dredging activities in Koh Kong province.
In an email yesterday, deported Mother Nature co-founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson said the focus on his group’s jailed activists is just the start.
“It is a very new concept for me and the others so we don’t know . . . what the nature of the cooperation will be,” he said.
Additional reporting by Mech Dara