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

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Banteay Meanchey gunfight sees 15 Thais arrested, three officers injured

    The Banteay Meanchey Military Police have arrested 15 Thai suspects and their accomplices after a gun battle between two Thai groups caused injuries to three police officers in the early hours of November 21, local authorities said. National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said that according to

  • PM: Do not defile Tonle Sap swamp forest or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered police to arrest anyone – including government officials – involved with the deforestation of the flooded forests surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake because it is an area important to the spawning of many species of fish, among other reasons. Speaking in a