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

  • Virus tops 84 with new cases in S’ville

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday night confirmed another 31 cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the Kingdom’s total to 84 and it highest daily tally. There have been no fatalities thus far. The latest cases were found in 29 French tourists and their two Cambodian tour guides

  • Two French tourists latest Covid-19 cases in Kingdom

    The Kingdom on Saturday saw two more cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 53. While the majority of the previous cases are linked to a Muslim religious gathering in Malaysia, the latest cases involved two French tourists visiting Sihanoukville. The Ministry of Health said

  • Kingdom’s virus toll tops 84, Cambodians in Thailand rush home

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday night confirmed another 31 cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the Kingdom’s total to 84 and its highest daily tally. There have been no fatalities thus far. The latest cases were found in 29 French tourists and their two Cambodian tour guides

  • NBC calls for cashless payments

    The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) has urged government ministries, financial institutions and the public to conduct cashless payments via electronic systems where possible to combat the spread of Covid-19. “To contribute to the prevention of Covid-19, the National Bank of Cambodia encourages financial institutions

  • CEO held for fraud in Siem Reap

    Over 200 individuals gathered in front of the Siem Reap Provincial Court last week to ask that Dim Suonnath, the CEO of a real estate company being held for fraud, take responsibility for compensating some 2,000 residents who invested with him. The request was denied. Suonnath responded

  • Ministry calls for home schooling

    Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Hang Chuon Naron appealed to parents of students to provide home education in a proper environment and help them obtain more learning materials. The ministry also allowed schools to take a premature vacation after several people tested positive for