Friday, November 21, 2014

Unearthing a Groslier treasure

Return to Clay, published by DatASIA
DatASIA have undertaken to unlock the secrets of the Khmer Empire and the roots of Southeast Asian culture by publishing long forgotten books, such as their latest publication, George Groslier's Return to Clay. The book blurb says the following: 'Charged with constructing a great bridge, Frenchman Claude Rollin travels to Cambodia with his wife Raymonde, who reluctantly sacrifices her high-society Parisian life. She adapts poorly, suffering from homesickness, fever and depression, colored by an innate fear of the local people. Claude, however, gradually embraces the natural beauty, values and purity of the gentle kingdom. Then he meets Kamlang, a native girl with whom he forges "a relationship unlike any he had ever imagined, or could imagine, while still bound by his Western values." His decisions result in anguish, betrayal, violence and-ultimately-epiphany.' The book is by George Groslier - one of the greatest witnesses of colonial Cambodia - and it won the 1929 Grand Prix de Littérature Coloniale for his tour de force novel, which DatASIA have translated into English for the first time, together with the complete original French text. My thanks to Kent Davis for the copy he handed me last night.

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A thorny problem

Shown tonight at Meta House, Life and Death at Preah Vihear was David A Feingold's 5-year project to bring the historical views from both sides, Cambodia and Thailand, to the thorny problem of Prasat Preah Vihear. For the moment things have gone quiet at the disputed border temple but no doubt it will again burst into life, when the Thais decide to once again throw it back into the political cauldron. One interesting feature at PV was the newly-created prominence of General Dee in the minds of some Cambodians, who have elevated this 16th century general to national hero status. I'd never encountered the story of Dee on any of my visits to the temple. As an insight into the history of the problem, the documentary worked for me. Below, the producer is pictured with the film's Khmer translator Molyka.
David A Feingold and Molyka, his translator

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Another level

Krom and the Chamroeun sisters at Meta House
Some great Krom-tastic moments as ever with the hauntingly beautiful voices of Sophea and Sopheak Chamroeun, noir poetry from John Gartland and an unexpected meet with Kent Davis and his wife, who handed me a fresh-off-the-press copy of Return to Clay, a 1928 novel by George Groslier, a man who wore many hats in his time in Cambodia. This was the second night on the trot at Meta House for me and another opportunity to catch Krom in the act. They will be off to Bangkok for three gigs next month and will be heading to Europe next year. And rightly so. They have developed a wonderful sound - take the song Passion as a great example - and the voices of the Chamroeun sisters take it to another level.

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Thomson's first book

John Thomson: The Early Years - In Search of the Orient - presents the early work of one of the greatest figures of nineteenth century photojournalism, the very first man to photograph the exotic and overpowering ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Born in Edinburgh in 1837, Thomson started his photography career in Singapore, Penang and the Malay Peninsula before photographing royalty and exploring architecture in Siam, Cambodia and Vietnam. While Thomson is best known for the photographs of China and London taken in his later years, the foundations of his success were the less well known images that he took in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. Thomson biographer Stephen White has noted that Thomson 's photographs are "Valued for their intrinsic qualities - the beauty of their imagery, their vivid sense of immediacy and their unconventional approach to composition." This book not only shows (in some cases for the first time) Thomson's earliest work, but republishes in its entirety his first book, The Antiquities of Cambodia, which revealed the ruins of Angkor Wat and the Bayon as they were almost one hundred and fifty years ago. That rare but seminal 1867 volume has never been republished until now. And its all thanks to Joel Montague and Jim Mizerski who've collaborated on this 247-page effort for White Lotus.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Telling stories

Sebastian Strangio signing a copy of his book for a new fan
Sebastian Strangio's launch of his new book, Hun Sen's Cambodia, saw Meta House fit to burst this evening, with standing room only. Either he's got a lot of friends or people are genuinely interested in what the book has got to say about the leader of the country. The room was chocka with expats. The author had a lot to say, speaking for nearly an hour, as well as answering questions from the massed ranks. Sales of the book were brisk as was the queue for an autographed copy of the tome, which is on sale at Monument Books. Here's a picture of Sebastian meeting a new fan and the chocka room. I'll be at Meta House for the next two nights as well.
Part of the packed room at Meta House

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On the calendar

Sebastian Strangio will be launching his book Hun Sen's Cambodia at Meta House (Sothearos Boulevard) at 7pm on Wednesday 19 November.

Thursday (20 Nov) at the same venue, from 8pm, will be a Noir poetry reading by John Gartland followed by a performance from Krom Unplugged with Chris Minko and the Chamroeun sisters from 8.30pm (before they head for shows in Bangkok in December).

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Feingold's Preah Vihear

Make a date on Friday 21 November from 7pm at Meta House, or Sunday 23 November from 6pm at Bophana Center on Street 200, to watch the 2014 documentary (51 mins) - Life and Death at Preah Vihear.  It's the latest offering from filmmaker David A Feingold, an anthropologist and award-winning documentary film director. His films include Terror in the Minefields for PBS, Inside the Khmer Rouge for BBC's Assignment, Washington/Peru: We Ain't Winning for Channel Four and PBS and Angkor: Temple Under Siege for National Geographic. He has investigated political, cultural and social issues in Southeast Asia for over three decades. Currently, he's investigating the trade in minority girls and women from Burma, Yunnan and Laos to Thailand. He's previously served as International Coordinator on HIV/AIDS and Trafficking for UNESCO and been a consultant to the Select Committee on Narcotics of the US Congress and United Nations. As co-founder of Ophidian Films, he's brought important issues in the contemporary world to a broad international audience. He's produced fifteen documentary features in Southeast Asia in the last decade with subjects ranging from exclusive portraits of Khmer Rouge guerrillas, the tragic impact of landmines and the fight for cultural survival in a classical dance school on the Thai-Cambodian border. His latest offering was filmed over a five-year period in both Cambodia and Thailand, as the two countries contest the mountaintop temple.

In March 2007, Documentary Educational Resources (DER), a non-profit organization founded in 1968 for the purpose of producing and distributing cross-cultural documentary films for educational use, released a series of films on Cambodia, by David A Feingold. They were Waiting For Cambodia (1988) and Silent Sentinels, Cowards War (1995), as well as, Return To Year Zero? (1989), K'Sai Chivit: Threads of Life (1994) and Inside The Khmer Rouge (1990). Each one of these films takes an intriguing look at a facet of life in Cambodia.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Furry spider leg

Coppin in the cap craps it! Courtesy of Philip Coggan
Philip Coggan, who's currently researching a book here in Cambodia that will decipher the world of spirits and Neak Ta, sat in on the Comedy Club last night and captured the moment as top-of-the-bill comedian Nik Coppin (he's in the cap) tried spider as an after-show light snack. He was crappin' it. Nik that is, not Philip.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Bookworms and comedy

Sebastian Strangio will be launching his book Hun Sen's Cambodia at Meta House (Sothearos Boulevard) at 7pm on Wednesday 19 November. The former Phnom Penh Post editor had this to say when VOA asked him why he wrote the book.
"Well, one of the things that I noticed when I arrived in Cambodia in 2008 was that there is quite a gap. There were plenty of books on the Khmer Rouge period, and also covering [the period] of the 1990s and at the end of the 1990s. But beyond that there was not anything that really examined Hun Sen’s rule over the last decades. It was, you know, in some ways, there was plenty of information out there [newspapers] due to a lot of expert reporting, and NGOs and civil society produce a range of materials about the country today. But there was nothing that synthesized all this information into a cohesive narrative that included domestic changes and the international context of Cambodia." Signed copies from the author will be available on the night. Free entrance.

Of a more pressing nature, the Comedy Club Cambodia will offer up British comedian Nik Coppin and a supporting cast of 4 local expat stand-ups tonight, cost $4 from 8.30pm at Equinox on St 278. Reviews of Coppin's shows are mixed, though most are positive so I await his brand of humour with interest. I'd love to see the likes of Tim Clark or Bob Mills walk the comedy boards of Phnom Penh sometime soon. Hint, Hint.
Nik Coppin ruled the roost at the Comedy Club tonight at Equinox and put on a polished performance as the final act of the evening. His fellow comics were local expat stand-ups and the difference in class was telling, with Eli Meixler showing the most promise.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Playlist review of TLR

Ma Rynet (Sophoun) in a captured moment from The Last Reel
The media reports and reviews have been coming thick and fast since The Last Reel came back from the Tokyo International Film Festival with the pretigious Spirit of Asia Award, not bad for the film's world premiere and a great boost to the Hanuman Films team ahead of the upcoming screenings at the Cambodia and Singapore Festivals. The best critical review of the film so far, appeared in The Playlist on Indiewire and came courtesy of Jessica Kiang, on 12 November. Here's her review:
The Last Reel
The debut film from Cambodian director Sotho Kulikar, “The Last Reel” starts shakily but adds nuance and layers as it progresses to become affecting and gripping by its closing section, something noted by the committee who gave it the “Spirit of Asia” award at the Tokyo International Film Festival. This is the second Cambodian film that we know of to use the history of the country’s pop cultural/filmmaking past to comment on both the devastation wrought by the Khmer Rouge, and the cathartic power of storytelling. The widely lauded documentary/personal history “The Missing Picture” is the other picture, while the documentary “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten,” which plays at this year’s stacked DOC NYC fest and investigates the country’s relationship with rock ‘n’ roll, looks set to be a third entry into this mini-subgenre (and our attention was drawn to another -- "Golden Slumbers"). But “The Last Reel,” though heavily autobiographical, is not a documentary, and the unmistakably personal nature of its story allows it to become, by its close a passionate cri de coeur, and a lamentation for a period of cruelty and perverted ideology that scars, perhaps even maims, the collective Cambodian memory.
As simple fiction, the film flounders a little, especially initially when we are expected to invest in the rather empty-headed star cross’d romance between a young Cambodian girl and her no-good gang affiliated boyfriend. The snapshot it gives of current Cambodian attitudes to gender relations and familial duty is interesting, but the tale is an overfamiliar one, and the filmmaking, never terribly sophisticated, doesn’t give us much reason to suspect just what a stunning story Kulikar has up her sleeve. In fact, if it were our business to do so, we’d strongly urge her to make substantial cuts to this portionessentially, she buries her fascinating lede under some not terribly interesting filler. And throughout the rest of the film, she only occasionally manages a true synthesis of the real story with the rather melodramatic turns the fictional overlay takes.
But no matter, because the real story that emerges, somehow all the more evocative for being told in glimpses, builds into a desperately moving, and surprising tale. A married, fragile ex-movie star, her overbearing husband, and the owner of the dilapidated cinema who pines for her, become entangled in a young girl’s desire to reshoot an ending to a currently unfinished film, and soon the secrets all three hide as to their roles and actions during the terror come to light. More about story than style, “The Last Reel” relates a personal, cross-generational tale of love and hate to the loss of cultural heritage and identity that occurred when Khmer Rouge outlawed moviemaking and destroyed a thriving national industry, and if only in its own last reel, it has both educational and deeply emotional impact. [B]

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

C-License starts

The C-License course participants earlier today
The Phnom Penh Post carried this short story today regarding the C-Licence course starting today at RSN Stadium, arranged by Phnom Penh Crown and the SALT Academy. I couldn't have put it better myself!
Crown host C-License coaching course
A 13-day AFC C-Licence coaching course for young players and coaches will kick off at 8:30am today at the RSN Stadium in Toul Kork district. The course is being hosted by reigning Metfone C-League champions Phnom Penh Crown with support from the Football Federation of Cambodia and Battambang-based charity organisation SALT Academy.FC Instructor Shiyaz Mohamed from the Maldives will lead the course and will be assisted by Crown Academy coach Bouy Dary. “For the players, it’s an opportunity to really start on the road to becoming coaches,” Crown press officer Andy Brouwer told the Post. “We encourage them to think of their careers after football, as part of their personal career development.”

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Molyvann's legacy

Ready for release next month is The Man Who Built Cambodia, a 24 minute documentary. Cambodia in the 1950s had a young and ambitious monarch in need of a young and ambitious architect. He found one in Vann Molyvann, and their 15 year partnership produced an astonishing array of grand public structures that drew on Khmer history, even while forging a new, forward looking identity. The early 90s marked the end of the Khmer Rouge and a new era in Cambodia. Eager to forget the past, the country went on a building spree. The capital city of Phnom Penh - long a low-rise town of temples and palaces - is now dotted with cranes worked by crews erecting high-rises that wouldn't look out of place in Hong Kong or Singapore. The Man Who Built Cambodia captures the genius of Vann Molyvann and his fall from favour. In a new age that values progress at all costs, can his legacy survive and guide Cambodia into a new era? See the trailer @

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

In the limelight again

In the limelight again, Dy Saveth
With some of her films having been shown in Tokyo previously, the film fans were particularly keen to see, hear and meet Dy Saveth. I'm not sure they expected her hair to be full of live snakes as it was in some of the films they've seen from the Golden Era of movie making in Cambodia. Questions came thick and fast at the Q&As after both screenings of the film and she expect more of the same fan adulation when the film opens the Cambodia International Film Festival on 5 December in Phnom Penh. Photo ©2014 TIFF.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Making a splash in Tokyo

Dy Saveth signing on the dotted line in Tokyo
Can't get enough of the Tokyo International Film Festival photos? Here's another one of the legendary actress Dy Saveth penning her name on a visitors board at the festival's offices. Saveth plays the mother character in the film The Last Reel and her on-screen daughter is Ma Rynet, in red. Photo ©2014 TIFF.
Ma Rynet looking resplendent in Tokyo
Ma Rynet plays Sophoun in the film The Last Reel, that won the Spirit of Asia award at the Tokyo International Film Festival last week. She looks resplendent as she signs her name at the festival's offices before one of the screenings. Photo ©2014 TIFF. The next chance to see The Last Reel will be at the Cambodia International Film Festival from 5 December in Phnom Penh.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Spirit of Asia award

Kulikar Sotho receiving her Spirit of Asia award at Tokyo IFF

A report from the Tokyo Film Festival, where The Last Reel was deemed a great success.
The 27th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF Japan 2014) was a resounding success for The Last Reel team and the principals from Hanuman Films as debutant Director Sotho Kulikar won the Spirit of Asia Award.

Director Sotho Kulikar, Producer Murray Pope, Executive Producers Tan Sotho and Nick Ray, and actors Ma Rynet, Dy Saveth, Sok Sothun and Hun Sophy travelled to Tokyo for the festival and had an incredible week. The world premiere was on Sunday 26 October at 14.10pm at TOHO Cinemas, Roppongi Hills, and screened to a sellout audience. A Q & A followed with the director and actors before the team rolled on to Gonpachi Restaurant in Roppongi. Famous as the inspiration for Uma Thurman’s showdown with Lucy Liu in Quentin Taratino’s ‘Kill Bill‘, celebrity diners have included Lady Gaga and Barack Obama, although not together.

Sunday saw a Kabuki performance at the famous Kabukizi Theatre in Tokyo, recently restored to its former glory. The audience was treated to  ‘Shakkyo‘ (Stone Bridge) by Ichikawa Somegoro, one of Japan’s best known artists. After a brief but beautifully presented bento box for dinner, the audience enjoyed a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, complete with some hilarious boxing sequences.

After some sightseeing around Tokyo, it was time for the second screening of The Last Reel at TOHO Cinemas, Roppongi Hills. Another packed house saw a longer Q & A session with time for the audience to ask some profound questions. A celebratory dinner followed at a nearby local restaurant. After a couple more days of sightseeing, including the famous Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest freestanding tower, and the Senso-Ji Temple, it was time for the Closing Ceremony of TIFF Japan 2014. Director Sotho Kulikar was seated in C36 right behind the Press, but there was still no clear indication of an award at this stage. After the Shogun Award was shared between film titans Tim Burton and Takeshi Kitano, it was time for the Japanese Film Splash which went to ‘100 Yen Love‘ with a special mention for ‘Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday‘.

Then came the all-important Asian Future section and the announcement of the Spirit of Asia Award by the Japan Foundation Asia Center. As the presenter mentioned a country in turmoil, we dared to believe and before long Director Sotho Kulikar was bound for the stage. An emotional speech followed in which she thanked her team in Japan, Cambodia and Australia and talked about the relationship between her mother and father. She dedicated the award to Cambodia and Cambodian people everywhere and hopes that it will help inspire a new generation of filmmakers.

Other award winners on the night included ‘Borderless” with the Best Asian Future Film Award; ‘Test’ with the WOWOW Viewer’s Choice Award and for Best Artistic Contribution; ‘Pale Moon‘ with the Audience Award and Rie Miyazawa as Best Actress; ‘The Mighty Angel‘ with Robert Więckiewicz as Best Actor; ‘The Lesson‘ with the Special Jury Prize; and ‘Heaven Knows What‘ with both the Best Director Award and Tokyo Grand Prix going to Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie. It was time to celebrate after some photo calls and interviews and the party kicked off at the Academy Hills on the 49th Floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower with champagne in full flow. The team eventually made it back to the Okura Hotel and spent Saturday recovering before the long flight home to Phnom Penh.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Making a splash

Kulikar & her award in Tokyo - AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA
Some fan-bloody-tastic news just reached me... The Last Reel, has just scooped a major award at the Tokyo International Film Festival! The movie, which is the directorial debut of Sotho Kulikar, has been awarded the prestigious Spirit of Asia award from the Japan Foundation Asia Center. It was the closing night and I know Kulikar and everyone there will be cock-a-hoop. So well deserved.

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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


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.


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 @ 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; " 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. and

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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 @

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 @
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 @ 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 @


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 @

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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.


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


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 @ 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 @

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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


Monday, September 1, 2014


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 @

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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