The fifth edition of the Angkor Wat International Film Festival kicks off this evening at Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort with a gala concert featuring celebrated Canadian singer-songwriter and environmental activist Ann Mortifee, and a Hawaiian hula dance performance by the children of the Ponheary Ly Foundation, followed by the opening film for the festival, Landfill Harmonic.
As ever, the festival aims to celebrate films from around the world – including India, Japan, France, Australia, the US and Iran - that promote cultural understanding and environmental awareness. An additional theme this year explores teaching the children of Cambodia.
“We are very excited to again bring the festival back to Siem Reap and offer to Cambodians the possibility to discover wonderful movies promoting culture and environment preservation,” said founder Tom Vendetti.
The multiple award-winning opening film, which centres on an orchestra from the slums of Paraguay whose instruments are made of trash, sets the tone for a collection of 30 long and short movies and documentaries that will be shown over the course of two days.
They include Planetary (3pm on Saturday, Phokeethra Ballroom) described as a “provocative and breathtaking wake-up call” that takes the viewer on a perspective altering visual tour of the world; Dams, Drugs and Democracy (11am on Saturday, Phokeethra Ballroom), which takes a look at the controversial plan to dam the Irrawaddy River at its source in northern Myanmar; and Cambodian short film Eclipse (3pm on Sunday, Phokeethra Ballroom), about a woman who adopts a young girl called Akasha, a prodigal source of light and love.
Political buffs get a look in too, including a screening of Mr Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, an examination of Barry Goldwater, once dubbed the “most dangerous man in the world” (5pm on Sunday, The Naga Room).
And if you just fancy a movie, there’s Hitchcock’s killer drama, Dial M for Murder (7pm on, Phokeethra Ballroom), or the Oscar-winning Road To Perdition (9pm on Saturday at the Phokeethra Ballroom).
While the film screenings take place, about 40 children from the Ponheary Ly Foundation will be taking ukulele lessons from renowned Hawaiian musician Keola Beamer – whose work and collaborations are celebrated in Keola Beamer: Malama Ko Aloha. They will perform on the closing evening. The lessons are also open to the public.
Festival founder Vendetti says Siem Reap is a natural home for a festival of this nature, given its cultural significance and environmental dependence.
“I’ve been coming here for over a decade and am fascinated by the changes, which are coming very fast. The culture of the country is evolving at a crazy rhythm,” he said.
“I’m very excited to watch this evolution, but also proud of participating in the preservation of the local culture and environment through the festival.”