Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Final roll-call

LtoR: Ma Rynet, Dy Saveth, me, Sok Sothun, Hun Sophy
The four lead actors from The Last Reel, Kulikar Sotho's directorial debut, that will have its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival on Sunday, gathered together for a prep meeting with me this evening before they fly to Japan on Saturday. I'm sure they'll all have a fabulous time. There will be two official screenings in Tokyo with Q&As with Kulikar and the actors after each screening. There will also be a press screening. The film will also been shown at the Singapore International Film Festival in early December and will have its Cambodian premiere at the same time. Next year, more festival screenings are planned.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Campbell on the mark

Comedy night at Equinox tonight was good value at $4 on the door, and three Australian stand-ups on the bill. Ro Campbell was last on and easily the best. Loved his rambling, cutting style, an excellent routine and among the top ten comics we've seen in Phnom Penh. His reputation preceded him and it was well deserved. I also liked the short set by the evening's opener from Marty Lappan. We could've been treated to more from Marty. Jon Bennett's cock show didn't do it for me, at all. Pictures of objects that look like a cock from around the globe is playground humour at best and his stand-up routine didn't win me over either. But you can't please all of the people all of the time, can you. Better luck next time. Campbell was on his second visit to Phnom Penh, having performed here in Sept 2012. I missed him first time around as I was in Central Asia, Tajikistan in fact, pulling my hair watching Phnom Penh Crown getting slaughtered in the AFC Presidents Cup.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cake-tastic

The Hanuman ladies deliver the cake. LtoR: Sreymom, Chhrep, Rath, me, Sinat, Daroeurn, Vatey
A bigger cake arrived, courtesy of our friends at Raffles and presented by my colleagues. No mention of my age though, way too many numbers for anyone to contemplate anyway, so best left unsaid!
Very chocolaty cake, courtesy of Raffles Hotels - very nice people

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

1-day before

Nice touch from the lovely staff at NOM

Thanks to the folks at NOM cafe on Street 310 for their nice '1-day before' birthday cake. Its becoming something of a tradition. I get my coffee every morning from the lovely staff at NOM and the personal interaction with their customers is why.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Keep an eye out for these

Savy's next single, Zero G will be available on iTunes, etc from 1 November. You can see the music video teaser @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWQh0RNZenk. Savy is a Cambodian-born pop singer who lives in California.

Sebastian Strangio's book, Hun Sen's Cambodia, should be in bookstores by the end of this month. Published by Yale Univ Press, its a look at Cambodia's recent troubled history under the longest-serving leader in modern history. David Chandler said of the book; "...is an absorbing, clear-eyed evaluation of Cambodia today." Definitely on my 'must read' list.

Another Comedy Club Cambodia will be hitting the stage at Equinox in Phnom Penh on Friday 17 October, kicking-off at 8.30pm. $4 on the door to get your ribs tickled by an Australian trio of mirthmen Ro Campbell, Jon Bennett and Marty Lappan, with Steven Halcrow as MC.

I've just found the two episodes of a new documentary on Angkor by the BBC, called Jungle Atlantis. Both were shown for the first time recently in the UK. http://youtu.be/Nt65c62JTxs and http://youtu.be/RTP-B727KjY.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

To the left of the comic's arse

Phnom Penh's comedy scene including the Brouwer Bros
I was way too preoccupied with Cambodia's gold medal success to notice that my brother Tim and myself are in the audience, concentrating hard it seems, to the comic on the stage in this picture by Derek Stout that appeared in the UK's online Telegraph newspaper website about comedy in Phnom Penh. We are to the left of the comic's arse, which some might say just about sum's up our lives to this point! You can read the whole article @ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatlife/11127606/The-club-providing-laughter-amid-the-madness-of-Phnom-Penh.html.

The gold medal came in Taekwondo and it was Cambodia's first medal of any variety in 44 years in the Asian Games. Take your bow, Sorn Seavmey. And here's the keys to the city.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

World Premiere at Tokyo

A screenshot from The Last Reel
Okay the cat is out of the bag....the Tokyo International Film Festival today announced its line-up and Kulikar Sotho's debut as a feature film director, The Last Reel, a Cambodian film to its core, will have its World Premiere at Tokyo on 26 and 29 October in the Asian Future category, featuring just 10 films. The section is a showcase for up-and-coming Asian directors and has its own awards up for grabs. The Festival overall garnered 1,373 submissions from 92 countries, with the chosen movies to be screened including 30 films having their World Premiere. The excitement is definitely mounting. And there will be a lot more news to come. Believe me. If you haven't heard about The Last Reel yet, have you been living under a stone? Visit the website @ http://www.thelastreel.info/.
Here are the films in the Asian Future section:
  • Above The Clouds, dir. Pepe Diokno (Philippines-France)
  • As The Swallows Got Thirsty, dir. Muhammet Cakiral (Turkey)
  • As You Were, dir. Liao Jiekai (Singapore)
  • Borderless, dir. Amirhossein Asgari (Iran)
  • In The Absence Of The Sun, dir.  Lucky Kuswandi (Indonesia)
  • Kyoto Elegy, dir. Kiki Sugino (Japan)
  • The Last Reel, dir. Sotho Kulikar  (Cambodia)
  • Made In China, dir. Kim Dong-Hoo (Korea)
  • North By Northeast, dir. Zhang Bingjian (China)
  • Nova Nik, dir. Amir Mustapha (Malaysia)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shown The Gate

A still from The Gate with Raphaël Personnaez (left) and Phoeung Kompheak
Making its film festival debut this month at both Telluride FF and Toronto IFF, Regis Wargnier's The Gate, titled Le temps des aveux in French, has received warm consideration from the critics I've read so far. Based on the memoirs of Francois Bizot, it tells the story of his arrest by none other than Comrade Duch before he became commandant of S-21 in Phnom Penh (and oversaw the death of over 18,000 prisoners), and the battle of wits between Bizot and Duch, which ultimately led to Bizot's release. Bizot is played by French actor Raphaël Personnaez, while the task of mastering the complexities of Duch was given to Khmer actor Phoeung Kompheak, who by all accounts steals the show. Angkor gets in on the act though much of the film was shot in Battambang early last year, with extras aplenty from the expat community there and in Phnom Penh. It's 21 years since Wargnier won the the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film with Indochine, a film set in the French colony of Indochina. Rithy Panh get a nod as producer and his Bophana Productions were also involved. I believe it will be shown at the Cambodia International Film Festival which is set for early December.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ghetto Feel

Black Roots, their new album is Ghetto Feel

Today, Bristol-based roots reggae band Black Roots release their latest album, Ghetto Feel. The vinyl version is out on 6 Oct. So pleased that the guys got back together a couple of years ago to make more great music. Love it. See them on YouTube with the title track from the album @ http://youtu.be/8FpCmFY27YI. They were a fantastic reggae band from Bristol, which was 40 miles from my hometown, and I really got hooked on them when they played at a Cheltenham nightclub, who's name escapes me, in the early 1980s. You can read a lot more about them on my website @ http://andybrouwer.co.uk/broots.html.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

PPP on Camp 32

The Phnom Penh Post caught onto the documentary In Search of Camp 32 this weekend and published a story in their weekend edition. The team from the film are holding a special screening for people involved in the making of the documentary at the start of October, up in Battambang. Here''s the article in the PPP @ http://www.phnompenhpost.com/post-weekend/revisiting-childhood-nightmare.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Building the future

The main grandstand of the future RSN Stadium
Phnom Penh Crown's president Rithy Samnang has invested a ton of money on the team and facilities over the last few years. It's been a key reason behind why the club has done so well, as it's attracted the best coaches and players to the club. He's continuing the theme by building the club's very own stadium, the RSN Stadium, and the first phase should be completed by the start of 2015. It will include a main grandstand that will seat thousands of spectators in comfort and the complex will include a VIP area, club offices, dressing rooms, medical station, a gym and press facilities as well as accommodation for the club's young academy players. Entertaining our own supporters at the RSN Stadium is crucial to defining our own identity as a club. Up until now all matches have been played at the Olympic Stadium, and a few at the Army Stadium. To take Cambodian football to the next stage of its development, we need teams to have their own grounds. But it will cost upwards of $1million to build suitable infrastructure for the fans and a playing surface that will be the envy of every club in the land. We are expecting the first phase, the grandstand and pitch, to be ready for January, though at the moment its more of a building site than the impressive final result you can see in these artists impressions. Watch this space.
Another view of the main grandstand

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hanuman at PATA

Hanuman's fine looking travel booth
I spent a couple of hours at the PATA Travel Mart at Koh Pich today meeting some old friends and making new ones. Here's the Hanuman booth at the 2-day show, which closes tomorrow afternoon. Lots of nice comments about the booth from visitors. It's a trade show so the general public aren't allowed in.

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River rafting in Angkor

By the end of the year you will be able to zipline your way through the treetops at the Angkor Temple complex and then river raft your way down the Siem Reap River all in a day. The latest adventure activity, river rafting, is due to appear in the next few months, courtesy of Float Angkor. They sound very safety conscious and you can even wear a go-pro helmet cam to record the fun. The rafting will be on the river that runs through Angkor, for just under 2kms. Don't expect rapids and white-water, its not that sort of rafting experience. The rafts take six people at a time. I've already tried the ziplining (at Flight of the Gibbon), so next up, river rafting. I'll need a life-jacket as I'm a crap swimmer.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sambo to retire, properly

I've just heard that if everything falls into place and the costs can be found, then Sambo, the elephant that was a regular feature in the capital, for his daily walks from Wat Phnom along the riverside until they were halted a while ago, can go and get some peaceful retirement and spend some time with other elephants at the Elephant Valley Project. Sounds like a perfect match to me. Fancy helping out? Then check out the EVP Facebook page for the opportunity to contribute your hard-earned cash for a good cause. Giving an elephant his life back, basically returning him to the wild with other elephants, is about as good an ending as you can hope for. Fairy-tale ending and all that.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Film-time

A flurry of new films will be making an appearance soon enough. The documentary In Search of Camp 32 has its first screening, in Battambang, at the start of next month. The Last Reel, the directorial debut of Kulikar Sotho, is likely to get its world premiere sometime soon - more details as they emerge. Also a fantasy-mystery by Khmer-American filmmaker Nathaniel Nuon called  Broken Balance is scheduled for screening soon in both the United States and Cambodia. Visit the film's website @ http://www.brokenbalance.com/crew/. American Forest Wise is also looking to finish his coming-of-age film centered around three young orphans from Siem Reap in A Cambodian Winter. You can join in the funding @ https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-cambodian-winter.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Catching up

The poster of The Last Reel
I spent time with the four main members of the cast of The Last Reel this week. There should be news very soon regarding the world premiere of the movie, which is Kulikar Sotho's directorial debut. In the meantime, it was catch-up time with Dy Saveth, probably Cambodia's best-known actress from the Golden Age of Khmer cinema, who managed to survive the Khmer Rouge purge of anyone in the public eye by living in France and Hong Kong, and who is still making movies today. In fact she's just been invited to play a major part in a new film to be shot in Thailand. Her language skills put me to shame, her English is almost flawless and her zest for life undiminished. She has over 100 film credits on her CV, acted in her first stage play just two years ago and isn't thinking of retiring any time soon. She's also passing on her skills to young actors with a Saturday morning master class each weekend at her home. I was impressed. Next up was the star of the film, Daneth, or Ma Rynet, to give her correct passport accreditation. Currently starring in a local TV series called Smart Girls, Daneth plays Dy Saveth's daughter Sophoun and is a revelation in the film, and will undoubtedly go onto enjoy a bright future. Sok Sothun, who plays the projectionist in the movie, actually graduated as a film director himself in Russia in the 90s and is a regular face in Khmer television and film. The same can be said for Hun Sophy, the army father of Daneth, who told me he's sporting an eye patch in his latest role in the movie, Before the Fall, which he's shooting at the moment. He can also be seen by western audiences in the Clash of the Empires and Holly, as well as a host of local productions. More on The Last Reel as I get it.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Proud as punch

Vansy and her youngest brother

My adorable god-daughter Vansy, now a beautiful young woman

Full of pride and admiration for my god-daughter Vansy, who I saw for the first time in way too long, this morning. She's cabin crew with Cambodia Angkor Air so is out & about a lot. I knew those English lessons when she was a nipper would come in handy. She was determined then to make something of her life, and she's done just that with a lot of hard graft. I'm as proud as punch. I first met Vansy in 2003, as she was kicking lumps out of me in a supposedly friendly football match. The following extract is from my travel log to Cambodia at the start of 2007:
<< The Mekong Express coach dropped me off at Wat Phnom at 2pm and I had a quick shower at the Dara before I got a lift back out to Kien Svay to stop for three nights at the home of Vansy’s aunt. Awaiting my arrival was Vansy, her siblings and a group of children and friends as we all sat down to a big group dinner and our first session of karaoke but without the music, when everyone took a turn in singing their favourite song. This became a regular after-dinner event for the next two days. My contribution was Jimi Lundy’s song Cambodia, which they all appeared to love and requested time and time again. During the day, I spent time playing badminton or football with the children though mostly it was 1-to-1 with Vansy, reading through books in an informal intensive crash-course in English! I was conferred with the title of Vansy’s ‘god-father’ and it was going well until I developed stomach cramps late on day three and suffered a serious bout of vomiting and diarrhoea. Vansy and her aunt’s home-spun remedy was to rub ceramic spoons on my lower back, much akin to ‘coining’, which is believed to circulate the blood and draw the ‘badness’ out of the body. I can’t testify that it works, but I can say it was the most painful experience I’ve ever had in Cambodia - believe me, it was excruciating. >>
One more for the family album with Vansy

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Screening

I've been invited to a special screening of the documentary In Search of Camp 32 which will take place in Battambang on Sunday 5 October. Its an invitation-only event for everyone involved in the making of the documentary which investigates the story of a remote camp site where more than 30,000 people were killed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. My good friend Sak from Battambang is an integral part of the film, so I will be intrigued to see his involvement, which I understand was quite substantial. Find out more about the film @ http://www.camp32.com/index.html

On the evening of Saturday 6, at 7 pm, Sophiline Arts Ensemble presents a programme of new and experimental dance, Tompeang Snong Russey. Three original pieces, drawing on the classical tradition, will have their Cambodian premiere. Tickets are 10,000 riels and available at the door. The venue is the Khmer Arts Theater in Takhmao, and a round-trip bus will be running from the city.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Before the Fall

News of a new movie in the making appeared in the Post Weekend edition today. Filmmaker Ian White has been shooting Before the Fall at various locations around Phnom Penh recently, including the crumbling former Police HQ next to the Post Office. The film is set in the chaotic days before the fall of the city to the Khmer Rouge, a noir thriller, with three unknown actors as the lead characters. It focuses on a beautiful singer attempting to escape the capital when her former French lover manages to find her. Their forbidden passion leads to political, financial, and romantic intrigue. The Australian director has also included a soundtrack from the Cambodian Space Project as an integral part of the project. The album, Electric Blue Boogaloo is described by CSP's Julien Poulson as the ''juke box for an imagined GIs RnR bar in pre-apocalyptic Cambodia... It's our best work to date." The film is expected to be completed before the first quarter of next year, the 40th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh. Hun Sophy, one of the main characters in The Last Reel, another film that straddles the Khmer Rouge period and is due for its world premiere later this year, also acts in Before the Fall, as he did in Holly and Clash of the Empires before that.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Four sides to every story

Four Faces of Truth is a historical novel by former CIA officer Harriette C Rinaldi about the relentless rise and deadly legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. It was published earlier this year by Fireship Press. Rinaldi spent 27 years in the CIA including a stint in Phnom Penh from 1972-75. The story is told by four fictional narrators who present their own perspective of the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the damage that was done. The timeline stretches from the early 1960s through to the present day, weaving the four stories, much like the famous faces of the Bayon.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

White Crocodile

A new book out this month has been receiving glowing, if not red hot reviews from all quarters. It's a story that evokes the exoticism of Cambodia but also exposes the brutal realities of life here – the legacy of landmines, the Khmer Rouge and the exploitation of its people, according to the PR blurb for K T Medina's thrilling debut novel, White Crocodile. Set in England and Cambodia, the praise for this 384-page Faber and Faber publication is nothing short of remarkable - hence why it should go to the top of your must-read list. To find out more about the back story behind White Crocodile, I suggest you read this interview with the author @ http://thethoughtfox.co.uk/kate-medina/. And if you want to know more about K T Medina, here's another interview @ http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/books/k-t-medina-white-crocodile-498847.html.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Black Roots history


Watch this short video to sail through the history of one of my favourite reggae bands, Black Roots. The band are about to release their latest album, Ghetto Feel. More later.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Unstoppable

Some people go on to do great things with their lives despite hurdles that would defeat lesser mortals. Sokchan is one of those people. Disabled at 11, this is a 14-minute documentary that tells the story of this highly-motivated Cambodian basketball athlete and coach. The film is Unstoppable Me: A film by Heang Sreychea.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Walk on the wild side

Monks in the Areng Valley
The remote Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia have long been considered the final frontier in ecotourism and the Wild KK Project goes deep into the heart of the beautiful Areng Valley. Started as part of a grassroots community-based initiative to save the Areng Valley from a planned dam, the Wild KK Project (www.wildkkproject.com) offers unique ecological tours in the Areng area. Trips can be individually tailored to include walking, kayaking, and mountain biking through lush forests, countryside villages and meandering rivers. The Areng Valley boasts incredible scenery, some shy wildlife, and a traditional village culture, adding up to a great place to get off-the-beaten-track.
Groups are small, tours take at least five days and the cost is all-inclusive. The Wild KK Project is linked to the Mother Nature (www.mothernature.pm) environmental pressure group.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

New LP for Cambodia

The new LP to Cambodia cover

The latest Lonely Planet guidebook to Cambodia is out. Despite having the eighth wonder of the world in its backyard, Cambodia’s real treasure is its people, says the introduction to the brand new Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia, that hit bookshops this month. I agree. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh may be the heavyweights, but to some extent they are a bubble, a world away from the Cambodia of the countryside, it continues. Well you can see for yourself by getting a copy, whether its the print edition or online. There are 370 pages of great tips, maps, photos and recommendations that will enhance your visit to Cambodia and here is LP’s Top 10 of what you must not miss:
1 – Siem Reap & Temples of Angkor. 2 – Phnom Penh. 3 – Sihanoukville. 4 – Battambang. 5 – Kampot & Kep. 6 – Mondulkiri. 7 – Ratanakiri. 8 – Kratie. 9 – Prasat Preah Vihear. 10 – Khmer Cuisine.
It’s obvious why Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples made it to the top spot. LP confirms why:  One of the world’s most magnificent sights, the temples of Angkor are so much better than the superlatives. Choose from Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building: Bayon, one of the world’s weirdest, with its immense stone faces: or Ta Prohm, where nature runs amok. Buzzing Siem Reap, with a superb selection of restaurants and bars, is the base for temple exploration. Beyond lie floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake, adrenalin-fuelled activities like quad biking and ziplining, and such cultured pursuits as cooking classes and birdwatching.
Khmer cuisine made it into the Top 10 so its worth hearing why LP included it: Everyone has tried Thai and Vietnamese specialities before they hit the region, but Khmer cuisine remains under the culinary radar. Amok (baked fish with lemongrass, chilli and coconut) is the national dish, but sumptuous seafood and fresh-fish dishes are plentiful, including Kep crab infused with Kampot pepper. It wouldn’t be Asia without street snacks and Cambodia delivers everything from noodles (mee) and congee (bobor; rice porridge) to deep-fried tarantulas and roasted crickets. With subtle spices and delicate herbs , Cambodian food is an unexpected epicurean experience.
LP highlights 5 useful websites for Cambodia and this blog is one of them. How perceptive of them.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Festival of traditions

Malen and me at the Amatak opening tonight
I attended the opening ceremony of this weekend's Amatak Festival to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Cambodian Living Arts this evening. One of the welcoming party was none other than Sang Malen, the star of the acclaimed film Ruin, who is back home after her trip to Australia to promote the film at the Melbourne Film Festival. Her background is in the performing arts, circus to be precise, though she's now in university, taking film studies.

The main event, after the speeches, at tonight's opening ceremony of the Amatak Festival was a story called Nary's Journey which paired the Cambodian Living Arts troupe with playwright Jean-Baptiste Phou, who has worked on the Khmer opera Where Elephants Weep and Winds of Angkor. Lots of traditional storylines, music and singing as a city dwelling-daughter came face to face with her mother's rural village life. Watched by a who's who of the arts scene in Phnom Penh including many of the living masters who have helped breathe life back into Khmer arts.


A big part of the performance at the opening of this weekend's Amatak Festival was recreations of typical and traditional rural life scenes, including a marriage ceremony. The Khmer audience lapped it up, as the recreations were very detailed and must've brought back good memories, especially for the old masters from around the country who were specially invited to the ceremony; which was a celebration of 15 years of Cambodian Living Arts. Rarely seen nowadays is the traditional headdress of the bride, you can see in this picture. I thought it and she looked stunning. Definitely a tradition that I would love to see come back into fashion.
The gorgeous wedding headdress

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

After the verdict

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal gave its verdict of guilty and life sentences for the two surviving masterminds behind the Cambodian genocide of the 70s recently and tomorrow (Wednesday) will be a unique opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of Case 002 with some of the leading figures involved in the ECCC trial itself. The Chief Judge said in summing up; "extermination encompassing murder, political persecution, and other inhumane acts comprising forced transfer, enforced disappearances and attacks against human dignity," as part of the verdict. At Meta House from 7pm, in After The Verdict, the crimes committed by former KR leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan will be up for discussion by Phay Siphan, Helen Jarvis, Lars Olsen, Sour Sotheavy and Victor Koppe, the co-lawyer in Nuon Chea's defense team. A veritable line-up of heavy hitters which should make for an interesting discussion.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

CTFF returns

The second annual Cambodia Town Film Festival will happen in Long Beach, California on 4-7 September this year. The Missing Picture, Rithy Panh's acclaimed portrait of his years under the Khmer Rouge, will open the festival which will also include RUIN, City of Ghosts, including a Q&A with Matt Dillon, and Don't Think I've Forgotten. Find out more at their website @ http://cambodiatownfilmfestival.com/blog/.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Amatak Festival

This weekend, Friday 15th, Cambodian Living Arts presents the free Amatak Festival at the Royal University of Fine Arts and the National Museum in Phnom Penh, with a diverse range of performances and workshops.  Runs from Friday evening through to Sunday evening. Find out more, including the full program @ http://www.cambodianlivingarts.org/our-work/projects/amatak-festival/.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Still on sale

Dany with a copy of To Cambodia With Love
On the way out of Cambodia en route to Thailand, I popped into the Monument Books shop at the airport and remarkably, they still have copies of To Cambodia With Love on sale. The PPCFC academy manager So Dany kindly acted as my model to show you the evidence. The book is retailing there for $30.

If you weren't aware, To Cambodia With Love, a guidebook with a difference, was published at the end of 2010. I edited the book, with contributions from over sixty fellow lovers of Cambodia, and over 120 stories to get your teeth into. Below is my introduction to the book. I think it says it all.

Andy Brouwer's Introduction to To Cambodia With Love
Excerpted from
To Cambodia With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur, available from ThingsAsian Press.

How do I describe my love of Cambodia? I'm not the world's greatest wordsmith, so I'll keep it simple. In 1994 I came to this country for five of the most exhilarating, nerve-jangling, and frightening days of my life-and that was it. I was hooked, completely, by a country and a people who've subsequently enriched my life to a degree I never thought possible. Those five days sparked a passion that grew with each of my annual visits, culminating in my migration here three years ago. I truly feel at home, I belong, I love every day of my life here, and I want to share my passion for this country with everyone. To Cambodia With Love is the perfect vehicle to do just that.

Fortunately, you don't have to read my inadequate prose to understand the essence of Cambodia. I've joined forces with more than sixty contributors who know this country as well as I do-better in many instances-and who I'm convinced will inspire you to come and see for yourself why this beautiful land is so alluring. Whether it's acclaimed memoirist Loung Ung eating chive rice cakes in the Russian Market in Phnom Penh, journalist Karen Coates exploring a bird sanctuary in Preah Vihear Province, pioneering guidebook author Ray Zepp riding a traditional norry along countryside railway tracks, or scholar and Angkor historian Dawn Rooney explaining her favorite time to visit Cambodia's most celebrated temple, there are essays to feed your obsession if you're already hooked, or spark a love that will continue to grow after your Cambodian baptism.

I urge you to discover and unearth Cambodia's secrets, some of which you will find within these pages, others you must find for yourself-and you will, I assure you. Wander amongst the crowded maze of its markets, absorb the slow pace of village life in a rural landscape where few travelers venture, discover the unique lifestyle along the Mekong River, and above all, appreciate a culture and setting that spawned the incredible temples of Angkor, the jewel in Cambodia's crown. Fifteen years ago, I was blessed to see the Angkor temples without the crowds, to experience sunrise over the pineapple towers of Angkor Wat in glorious solitude, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Though the secret of Angkor is now well and truly out in the open-it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world-there are still many opportunities to grasp your own special memories and lock them away forever, as I have ... beginning with a few suggestions in this book.

I know it's a bit of a tired cliché that it's the people of this and that country that make it such a wonderful place, but the truth is, they really do. Cambodia is no different. After weathering decades of bloodshed and civil war, poverty, and instability, the Khmer have proved their incredible resilience, and their smile remains as bewitching as it has throughout time. The friendships I've developed over the years will last forever. No one will leave Cambodia without a large chunk of admiration and fondness for the people they encounter. You have my guarantee.

This is not a definitive guide to Cambodia. Far from it. It is about inspiration, discovery, sharing, and above all else, a love and a respect for a country that has changed my life forever, as I hope it will change yours.

Andy Brouwer
Editor, To Cambodia With Love

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Monday, August 4, 2014

A moving insight

“This is an inspiring, first-hand account of personal sacrifice to help dying children, an insight into courage, and a vivid portrait of life in rural Cambodia,” says Alan Lightman, who founded the Harpswell Foundation in Cambodia. He's talking about a new book, published this month, by Gail Gutradt who has been a volunteer at the Wat Opot Children’s Community in Cambodia since 2005, where children with or orphaned by HIV/AIDS live. In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opot is a 352-page book published by Knopf. Sounds like a must-buy to me.

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