Thirty-five-year-old Cambodian film director Khvay Samnang is among five artists who will be presenting films during a one-time event at Bophana Center next Thursday called Forces and Volumes. Organised by the arts organisation Sa Sa Bassac, the films are largely wordless and each stand on their own as essays.
Samnang’s film, Where is My Land?, which he co-directed with Nget Rady, is an exploration of how land and water are being used in Cambodia.
“I want to show real social problems and disasters, which can cause people to lose their lives,” Samnang says. “I went to film in locations that have faced natural disasters or risked destruction from development, [like] on the Mekong River and Boeung Kak lake.”
According to May Adadol Ingawanij, while exploring social issues surrounding land and natural resources, the show is also an artistic exploration of the role of voice-overs in film, or the lack thereof.
“There tends to be an assumption that essay films use a lot of voice-over in order to convey the thoughts and feelings of the filmmaker,” he says. “Yet the works by the four artists have a common feature in that they turn away from the voice-over. So I also wanted the programme to ask whether ‘films/videos that think’ need to do so via speaking.”
In all four films, Ingawanji says, the artists study “the way human conflicts and power shape land and water”. Despite the heavy subject matter, there are glimmers of hope.
“What I admire very much about the four works is the way they imply the persistence of that which resists man-made destructive forces,” he says.
Samnang, Rady and artist Nguyen Trinh Thi each explore land and water issues in Cambodia and Vietnam, while artists Charles Lim and Taiki Sakpisit look closely at urban challenges. “Charles’s work … is to do with the way the hyper-capitalist development of Singapore is drastically changing the boundary and definition of land and sea, and in Taiki’s case, the city spaces of Bangkok is one haunted by its cycles of national political catastrophes.”
During the event, Samnang and Thi will join Ingawanij for a conversation in English, with a Khmer translation.
Forces and Volumes will show on January 19 at 6:30pm at Bophana Center.
Additional reporting by James Reddick