Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Children lead life of crime to gain an education



Children lead life of crime to gain an education

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The three rascal protagonists from the short film. Photo Supplied

Children lead life of crime to gain an education

A new project from an American director uses an imaginative plot to depict the problems of rural education in Cambodia

A US filmmaker is producing a short film highlighting problems in the Cambodian school system – featuring a young fisherman who turns to crime in order to pay for an education – with hopes to turn it into a full-length feature.

The Cambodian Road is not [just] another film about the problems of developing nations,” stressed director David Brundige, who this month surpassed a fundraising target of $5,000 on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter.

In addition to raising awareness about the challenges associated with rural education, he said, both the short and planned feature were meant to be entertaining.

The plot centres on 14-year-old named Chhen, a fisherman who wants to become a teacher like his uncle who was murdered by the Khmer Rouge.

His hope for an education lies in Siem Reap, home to the nearest high school, but Chhen’s dreams are dashed when his friendship with a Vietnamese girl is discovered by his parents.

In a rage, they cut him and Chhen is left to fend for himself.

Desperate for tuition money, he and a pair of like-minded rascals turn to conning tourists, detonating landmines and other nefarious activities.

Brundige – who has teamed up with Phnom Penh’s Hanuman Films (The Last Reel, Tomb Raider, Ruin) to produce the feature – was inspired after a trip to the picturesque Kompong Khleang, a seasonal floating village on the Tonle Sap.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Kompong Khleang.Photo Supplied

“I knew I wanted to make a movie there. I called my tour guide and asked him what were the biggest social problems facing the village,” he said.

“He told me that the poorest kids couldn’t go to high school because it was too far away.”

A local producer named Sreylin Meas helped him cast his young actors by reaching out to schools and orphanages with a performing arts focus in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, finding three “talented actors with unique strength”.

To complete the project, Brundige partnered with World Assistance for Cambodia, an NGO that has built more than 550 schools in rural areas across the Kingdom, and the Ministry of Education, who helped scout the location for the construction of a rural school.

They chose Anlong Samnor, a village near where the film is set.

The plan is for a percentage of the film’s revenue to go towards the construction project.

“We hope that this film’s financing structure will serve as a model for other socially conscious films to do tangible good in the communities in which they film,” wrote Brundige on the project’s website.

Brundige is in the process of editing the short film as a pilot for the feature and to “cut [his] teeth shooting in Cambodia”.

The feature, which is to begin pre-production in September, is set to be finished by summer 2016. Construction of the school will start the following year.

In the meantime, Brundige is a busy man.

“Anytime you do a crowdfunding campaign, success means humility and gratitude in the face of all of those who supported you,” Brundige said.

“Especially if you’re not famous, your friends and family are the ones primarily supporting you, and all I feel is thankful – and a responsibility not to let them down.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • Chinese may be first in tourism revival: PM

    Cambodia's tourism industry is gearing up to roll out the red carpet for Chinese travellers after Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 17 indicated that the Kingdom could soon throw open its doors to international holidaymakers vaccinated against Covid-19 – starting with guests from China. Cambodia Chinese

  • Four-pillar approach in reopening of tourism: PM

    Cambodia is drawing up a four-strategy approach to promptly restore domestic and international tourism activity and put the industry on a transition pathway to a sustainable and inclusive model that is resistant to future crises, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The prime minister made

  • Airline says ready for green light to reopen international tourism

    Sky Angkor Airline Co Ltd on September 21 said it is ready to transport South Korean and Chinese tourists to the Kingdom once the Cambodian government makes good on plans to reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers. The Siem Reap-based airline made the remark during a

  • Tourism concerns laid bare

    To ensure the success of plans to reopen the tourism market for international visitors, Cambodia must pay utmost attention to two primary determinants – the ongoing paradigm shift in domestic tourism services towards the ‘new normal’, and the factors influencing choices of destinations among foreign holidaymakers.

  • Cambodian bride ‘badly treated, held captive’ by Chinese man seeks help

    A Cambodian woman who travelled to China to marry a Chinese man there was “badly treated” by her husband’s family and then had to be rescued and will be returned to Cambodia to ensure her safety. The rescue operation came about after the 25-year-old