Shinta Mani Hotel and the Nginn Karet Foundation will both feature at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, in a short film about social initiatives in Cambodia titled Smiling Faces of Cambodia.
The 15-minute documentary has been accepted into the prestigious festival’s Short Film Corner, and will premiere on May 16.
Shot in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kep and Kampot in March, the film is directed by Massimiliano Turci, and produced and presented by travel journalist Cameron Yorke.
Yorke, who has produced travel shows for British TV broadcaster BSkyB, says he was impressed by the numerous drives underway to help restore Cambodia to its former glory.
“We wanted to showcase the work individuals have undertaken to benefit the re-building of Cambodia through training and education,” he says. “Perhaps half of the film is based on the initiatives in place by the Shinta Mani Foundation, and also the Nginn Karet Foundation for Cambodia in Banteay Srei.”
Shinta Mani general manager Christian de Boer was interviewed for Smiling Faces, and says he is thrilled to have been a part of it.
“This short film will hopefully have big implications for the tourism world here in Cambodia and thus create much needed jobs,” he says.
De Boer spoke about the work of the Shinta Mani Foundation, which provides education and vocational training support.
Yorke says, “We were so impressed by the enormous initiatives undertaken by individuals, organisations, and indeed members of the Royal family in providing incredible training and educational opportunities for those far less fortunate than themselves, in helping the county to find its feet, and once again become the thriving prosperous land it once was.
“Shinta Mani provides an awe-inspiring initiative which trains homeless children and orphans in all aspects of hospitality, including English and computer skills, and then helps them find employment once they have graduated from their recognised diploma course.
“They have another course which runs alongside this, teaching children of local farmers diversification and western farming practice to enable the families to be more productive and competitive in the local market place. All of these projects, we feel, are pivotal in the development, and re-building of Cambodia, in providing much needed skills to ensure the success of these incredibly motivated and clever youngsters.”
“Other organisations with similar objectives which we were privileged to visit were the Nginn Karet Foundation for Cambodia, which teaches traditional ballet to disadvantaged children in the Banteay Srei area as well as providing formal education, and the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, almost wiped out of existence during the Khmer Rouge regime, but now thriving, having just embarked on a tour of Portugal, France and Italy thanks to the tireless work of HRH Princess Norodom Buppha Devi.”
Yorke and Turci self-funded Smiling Faces of Cambodia, which was designed as a taster, with the intention of raising more funds to produce a full-length feature in October.
“This short film was produced to have something to show people back in England so that we could raise the necessary finance to come back to Cambodia and film a feature length documentary for cinema release,” Yorke says.
“So we were thrilled to have it accepted by the Cannes Court Métrage for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it will inevitably gain far more exposure and therefore hopefully attract interest on a worldwide level from networks and distributors.
“Hopefully the feature length film will also attract interest from individuals and corporations in donating directly to these and other worthwhile causes. Our dream is that it will provide a positive and beneficial image of sustainable tourism in Cambodia.
“This will attract the right sort of tourists from the west, rather than the predominantly 'backpackers destination' which the western media encourage us to believe exists now.
“A percentage of any profits we make from this film will be donated directly back to these projects, and we would welcome information on any other initiatives in Cambodia which we can include in the final film, hopefully to be shot later this year.”