The Cambodian film industry is booming, with nearly one million films and TV shows coming to screen across the country every year.
In recent years, however, the number of productions has fallen.
“It is hard to find directors who have the time and money to devote to the industry,” says Jethro Fazio, the executive director of the Cambodian Film Production Society.
As the industry continues to struggle, many artists, producers and distributors are asking the government to support the sector.
That’s why, according to the Cambodia Film Society, the government has set up the Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) to help boost the sector’s visibility.
The festival is slated to run from May 12 to July 2.
The event will be held in Phnom Penh, a port city with a long history of film production.
The film festival is aimed at showcasing Cambodia’s cinematic talent, including many who are now working in Cambodia, says Fazie, adding that the government will also present its own films to the public.
The Cambodians are well known for producing some of the best films in the world, with directors such as Wong Kar-wai, Phan Hoang, Boon Phan, and Pichai Ngo.
In the past year, the country has seen some of its best-known filmmakers leave, including Wong Kar Wai, who left for Hong Kong, and Boon Pong Jok, who went to the U.S. In addition to these, the industry also suffered a setback in 2018, when the Cambodia National Film Archive (CNFA) closed its doors for more than a year due to a lack of funding.
CNFA’s closure left the Cambodians scrambling to find new ways to fund their projects.
Fazia, however and the CNFA, have since resumed their efforts to revitalize the industry.
“We need to find a new way of funding the industry, and that means financing production in Cambodia,” he says.
The CNFA also has launched a new initiative to promote the industry abroad, which includes a new exhibition called Cambodia’s Film Industry in 2018.
“The exhibition will showcase Cambodia’s cultural heritage in the context of international cinema,” says Fadima Khun, a CNFA official who has been overseeing the project.
“This exhibition will also showcase the Cambodo-Burman film scene,” she says, referring to the film industry in Cambodia’s mountainous northeast region.
“Cambodia’s film scene is one of the most diverse in the region, and we want to showcase the country’s cinematic culture in a way that is accessible to foreigners and Cambodians alike.”
The CNFA is not the only one promoting the countrys film industry.
A number of private companies are also promoting their films and offering screenings at international cinemas.
The Cambodia International Cinema Festival, which has also opened in 2018 in Php1,000 (approximately $1) for a screening, has been an important catalyst for the country, says Khun.
The exhibition showcases Cambodia’s filmmakers’ efforts, and the festival will feature film screenings and screenings of new films that will be available for viewing in PhP1,600.
“In Cambodia, cinema is a very popular medium and one that is seen as something that can bring a positive message to the world,” says Khuong.
The International Film Society of Cambodia has also started to launch its own cultural tourism agency, called Cambodi Film Tours.
It is planning to offer tours to Cambodia’s film industry and its residents, and also will offer screenings of films that Cambodians have been producing and sharing online.
“Our mission is to bring cinema to Cambodians who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience it,” says the organisation’s director, Siew Phyat, adding, “Our films will not only entertain, but also enlighten, educate and inspire.”
The country has recently witnessed a surge in the popularity of Cambodia’s independent filmmakers.
The number of independent films that have screened in Phs1,700 (approximately US$1) each in the past three years has nearly tripled.
The popularity of these films is also a major draw for Cambodians, who are increasingly looking to film outside of the country.
“Filmmakers have to be able to travel and make films wherever they go,” says Phyatt, adding the popularity has made it difficult for filmmakers to get visas to film abroad.
The countrys new film industry has also come under attack from the country of Vietnam.
Last year, Cambodia enacted a law that allows the government, and any company that creates a film that violates the country and its laws, to prosecute those who distribute and promote the film.
The law has sparked protests by filmmakers, who have demanded that they be able get their films out in the open.
“I would say that the law has been the biggest obstacle to Cambodia,” says Hany Thanh.
“For a filmmaker, it has been a nightmare.”
Faziu says that