A feature film shot in Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh, Kep, Kampot and Sihanoukville, billed as a ‘poetic road trip, coming-of-age story,’ is now in post-production in Temple Town.
The feature, A Cambodian Winter, is centred around three main characters, young Cambodian orphans each on their respective search for love and happiness.
Written and directed by American film-maker Forest Wise, the production was shot over four weeks in 2012 and 2013, in Khmer, and will have English subtitles.
The story revolves around a strong-willed, nine-year-old orphan called Pim who, along with her friend Chamron, sets out to find funds for her impoverished orphanage.
“Pim has daydreams and premonitions,” Wise says. “The orphanage needs money; the duo decides to run away to go to the sea based on a wise buffalo who talks to Pim – we’d like to get somebody like James Earl Jones to voice it.
“So they go on this road trip, along the way they meet this young boy Kith who’s a street hustler. He takes them under his wing. You see Cambodia through the eyes of a kid, and the lead girl and boy – let’s say – fall in love for the first time, a childhood love.
“The film explores the universal story of love, to find someone who will take you in their arms and hold on to you forever. At the end of the day it’s a road trip. I don’t want to compare it to anything but it does have similarities to Y Tu Mamá También, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and to Slumdog Millionaire.”
The title A Cambodian Winter refers to a kind of fantasy of Pim’s.
“It doesn’t really snow here and there’s not really winter, so in the film Pim talks about snow and at the end of the film it’s all fantasy, and it snows,” says Wise. “It’s something that doesn’t exist, that happens.”
The young cast is made up of kids aged, at the time of filming, between 12 and 16 years, none of whom had acted before. Wise met them when he first arrived in Siem Reap three years ago.
“I was working at an NGO and I really bonded with these kids and decided I wanted to do something,” says Wise. “I thought, let’s do a documentary.”
The documentary idea soon evolved into a feature film, and other young people were drafted in to work as crew, learning invaluable lessons and getting paid work experience at the same time.
“I got other kids behind the cameras so they could learn something,” he says. “I’ve got friends who came in from Mexico, LA and London to work on it, so they learnt with a professional crew.”
All the kids are partners in the film, and will receive a share of the profits, Wise says. He also hopes the film will open up new avenues and employment opportunities for them.
Wise plans to take A Cambodian Winter around the festival circuit in 2015 starting with the Berlinale in February, and has launched a crowd-funding campaign to “put Cambodian film on the international stage.”
He is hoping to raise $50,000 by September 9 on platform Indiegogo.
“We’re showing it to distributors now,” he says. “By January we should have a final cut, with visual effects, colour grading and so on. I want to try and get it ready for Berlin, that’s where I’d like to debut it.
“And what I want to try and do is get all the kids who worked on the film to travel with it. We want to do a documentary based on before, after, how it effects them – all that stuff.”