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

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to