Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dark comedy takes on selfies



Dark comedy takes on selfies

Sophea, played by Khat Sombath Ketya, in the film Kampoul Neak Selfie, which is out in local theatres. Photo supplied
Sophea, played by Khat Sombath Ketya, in the film Kampoul Neak Selfie, which is out in local theatres. Photo supplied

Dark comedy takes on selfies

One evening in 2016, British filmmaker Matthew Robinson was drinking a cappuccino in an upscale Phnom Penh coffee shop when he realised something: everybody around him, even the servers, were taking selfies.

He couldn’t help but think of Narcissus, who falls in love with his own reflection after being cursed by the god Nemesis, which in the end leads to his demise.

After finishing his coffee, he walked out onto Sisowath Quay, only to find more people taking pictures of themselves. It was at that moment that he decided to make a film about this modern-day fixation.

“I, personally, think it is not a human trait,” Robinson, the founder of Khmer Mekong Films, said. “Ten years ago, it did not happen, but now it is all the time and everywhere. It is like falling in love with yourself!”

Two years later, Robinson’s feature film – Kampoul Neak Selfie, or “King Selfie” – is now in Cambodian theatres, a humorous social commentary that is also pushing the limits of local film genres.

A black comedy, King Selfie tells the story of Sophea, a young man and avid selfie-taker. Like many others of his generation, he dreams of celebrity, and a series of fortuitous events helps Sophea achieve that dream. It doesn’t bring him happiness for long, however, as he is afflicted by nightmares resulting from his self-absorption. When tragedy strikes, Sophea decides that he has to redeem himself to find inner peace.

According to Robinson, the film reflects his own negative feelings about fanatic selfie-taking, though he realises that many may not agree with his curmudgeonly stance.

“The message is ‘don’t be obsessed with yourself’,” he said. “It is possibly damaging to you as a person if you fall in love with yourself. We don’t know what is going to happen in the next few years since even the young kids are doing it now.”

Robinson is not the only one concerned – even some governments, like India and South Korea, have banned the use of selfie sticks in pedestrian areas.

Khat Sombath Ketya, 28, who plays Sophea, said his own personality is reflected in about half of the lead character’s traits. After starring in King Selfie, Ketya is now reconsidering his ways of life.

“It is never good to love yourself too much,” said the actor, who is also a host on SEATV. “In the film, Sophea’s extreme love for himself leads to the loss of his friends and his love, and many other bad things. I hope the young people who get the message from the film will change their mindset too.”

While declining to give the exact budget for King Selfie, Robinson hinted that it comes to “at least twice as much as an average Cambodian film”. For him, that’s a risk, as the film doesn’t fit in the limited commercial wheelhouse of Khmer cinema, which is dominated by slapstick comedy and horror.

“I hope that the brilliant acting from the cast and the modern feel to the production will compensate for any lack of understanding of the theme,” he said. “I am glad to have made this film, and I wouldn’t change much of it even if our box-office receipts don’t quite achieve what we hope for.”

Kampoul Neak Selfie is now in local theatres and is in Khmer with English subtitles.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival draws to close

    Cambodia's 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival wrapped up successfully on November 28 after a four-day run, with the film “Voice of the Night” awarded top prize for 2022. Sum Sithen, the organiser of the short film festival, told The Post that the number of attendees to the