The producers of a new 60-episode Khmer musical TV series promoting traditional Khmer musical instruments claimed the crew and actors were bedeviled by spirits during the early part of shooting.
The series, Roneat Snea ( Xylophone Loves), was filmed by Phnom Penh-based Rock Productions and at the start of shooting the staff and crew held a Buddhist prayer ceremony in Kandal province.
But when the crew arrived in Siem Reap where most of the shooting took place, some freaky things began to happen, according to the film company’s general manager Keu Vannak.
He said that the movie director and actors were frightened by a spirit that possessed some of them because they chose the wrong place to hold the prayer ceremony prior to shooting – the ceremony should have been held in Siem Reap not Kandal province.
“We all saw the spirit with our own eyes. We also were shocked to see that some actors and actresses were possessed including our movie director, so we had to prepare another ceremony,” Vannak said.
In fact three ceremonies had to be held before the movie makers got it right and stopped getting bad vibes from cheesed off supernatural entities.
Vannak said that when the move makers were celebrating the first ill-fated prayer ceremony in Kandal province, a monk saw a spirit sit among the cast and then talk to the main actress.
Keu Vannak and his movie director, San Pisal, didn’t give credence to ghosts and spirits, but after what happened next in Siem Reap they became firm believers.
After the ceremony in Kandal province, the movie makers travelled to Siem Reap with Vannak driving the car.
They arrived in Siem Reap late at night and as they were approaching a temple, a large black shadow appeared in front of their car. The car almost overturned and Pisal reached over and turned off the motor because Vannak was in shock.
“I was the driver and it was a scary night for us. Pisal said to me, ‘We have done nothing wrong, so the spirits will not mistreat us.’ But a few seconds after Pisal said that, I shouted loudly to him, ‘Don’t you know what you have done wrong?’ Pisal said he could feel that the voice that came out of me wasn’t mine.”
After the incident, Vannak said everyone was shocked, except the main actress who acted normally as though nothing had happened. When the team drove to their hotel, more stuff happened, especially to the main actress.
“It seems that this spirit followed us from when the car had stopped,” Vannak said. “We could not sleep for the whole night. We just tried to think what we had done wrong.
“Then, at the hotel, Pisal became possessed – he shouted loudly and acted without knowing what he was doing. We all tried to hold him, and some of us felt so frightened that we ran out of the room.
“A couple hours later, the team turned on the television and selected a channel they wanted to watch. But the television changed the channel by itself until they could see the Khmer ancient movie which they planned to shoot,” Vannak said.
“We saw it, and it was unbelievable. The main actress saw herself sitting with another beautiful woman in the same ancient clothes in the television. Then she also became possessed and cried until she was unconscious.”
It was then that the movie makers decided to hold a second blessing ceremony. But afterwards, a monk predicted that if a third ceremony was not held at another site, the movie director and some of the actors would die.
“Even though we held the second ceremony in Siem Reap, we still could not shoot until we held a third ceremony in the Bong Thom Homestay near Banteay Srei temple. The monk told us that this was where part of our film story started in ancient times.
“We think we chose the right place then because we could then shoot without the unusual things happening. I have never confronted this before… this was my first time and I was so horrified, but this is the way to learn that we have to respect the spirits.”
He added that he now feels as if someone is helping the crew make the production behind the scenes.
The TV series plot, based on an ancient folk tale, revolves around a love story set in Siem Reap : the lovers meet in a dream, and both of them wish to one day meet each other in the real world one day.
“The main actor and main actress always see each other in their dreams and they try to make the love happen in real life,” Vannak said. “The series also looks at the life of people in contemporary society.
The series is mainly filmed in rural villages in the Banteay Srei district, and in Angkor Archaeological Park.
Production of Roneat Snea will be finished in three months and will then be shown on CTN from Mondays to Fridays.
Vannak said another aim of the TV series is to popularise the musical instrument, the roneat, and to promote the correct name for Khmer musicals.
He said, “We would like to preserve the roneat by promoting it to our TV audience.”
He added that the movie makers also want to clarify the confusion over the correct Khmer term for a musical – Khmer now usually refer to a musical as ‘Pleng Siam,’ but the original name is ‘Pleng Pin Peat.’
“We will demonstrate this to our movie audience and we want them to use the right name,” Vannak stressed.