Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Double feature from the Kingdom set to premiere at Cannes




Double feature from the Kingdom set to premiere at Cannes

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Filmmaker Rithy Panh has described his new film Exile as a kind of ‘essay’. Photo supplied

Double feature from the Kingdom set to premiere at Cannes

Now that the Woody Allen-Kristen Stewart opening-film juggernaut of Cafe Society is safely out of the way, the 2016 Cannes Film Festival (May 11 to 22) is finally ready for its Cambodia Day. It’s not exactly an officially branded event, for sure, but who could argue otherwise when Cambodian auteur Rithy Panh and Cambodian-French filmmaker Davy Chou are making back-to-back bows with their latest films on the Croisette today?

Represented by four features and one short film across different sections at Cannes, South Korea remains the country with the biggest presence at the famous French film festival this year. But Cambodia is not far behind: the country boasts as many festival entries this time around as the traditional festival-circuit big-hitters of Japan, Singapore, Iran and India.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Diamond Island’s Nuon Sobon (left) is to attend the premiere today along with Chou and a few cast and crew. Photo supplied

Both Panh’s Exile (a special screening in the official selection) and Chou’s Diamond Island (a competition entry at the Critics’ Week sidebar) are co-productions with French partners, with the two films counting on the support of – among others – the influential arthouse broadcaster-producer Arte France.

In film-industry terms, their appearances at Cannes could be seen as a homecoming – but content-wise, the films are thoroughly Cambodian, providing a look at two very different perspectives of the country’s socio-historical reality today.

Having last appeared at Cannes with The Missing Picture – it won the top prize at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section in 2013 – Panh has returned to the festival with a film that again draws largely on his own personal history.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Exile is premiering today at Cannes. Photo supplied

In his production notes, the filmmaker describes Exile as “a meditation on absence . . . and on inner solitude, geography, politics” through a story of a boy growing up in Khmer Rouge-ruled Cambodia, and the man he would eventually become.

Promising a “crossing that blends the colours of today and the images of yesterday”, Panh is perhaps hinting at a mix of the heartbreaking visuals of The Missing Picture and the archive-footage montage that shapes last year’s France Is Our Mother Country, a reflective piece about the legacy of French colonialism.

While Panh trawls the past to understand the present, Chou zeroes in on the here and now to seek harbingers of the future.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Rithy Panh. AFP

Having revisited the Khmer Rouge’s deadly legacy on Cambodia’s cinematic heritage with his first feature-length documentary Golden Slumbers, Chou – the grandson of the skilled 1960s and ’70s film producer Van Chann – now turns towards the young people seeking fame and fortune in and around one of the many lavish residential complexes sprouting up across Phnom Penh today.

A follow-up to his short film Cambodia 2099, which received its world premiere at the Directors’ Fortnight program at Cannes two years ago, Diamond Island stars a cast made up entirely of non-professional actors.

Nuon Sobon, who plays the 18-year-old protagonist plunging headlong into Phnom Penh’s spinning nightlife, is a taxi driver, one of the many people he discovered during a four-month search at construction sites and on social media.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Davy Chou. AFP

While differing in their themes and aesthetics, both Exile and Diamond Island revolve around an anxiety about the uncertain future towards which Cambodian hearts, minds and bodies are careening.

Given its strong and diverse showing at one of the world’s premier film festivals – not to mention achievements attained elsewhere, such as Sotho Kulikar’s awards in Tokyo in 2014 with The Last Reel – Cambodian cinema’s gradual resurgence seems more certain.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • Cambodia, CRF win rice battle in EU Court

    The European General Court has rejected the European Commission’s (EC) request to reject a complaint submitted by Cambodia and the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) regarding the EU’s reintroduction of tariffs on Indica rice exports from Cambodia. A court order uploaded to the European