Tuesday, October 31, 2006

MSAVLC & All Ears

The Medical and Scientific Aid for Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia (MSAVLC) charity is a group I've been aware of since I was campaigning back in the 1980s & 90s for the British government to cease recognising the Khmer Rouge coalition. At that time MSAVLC were one of the few groups with a keen interest in Cambodia and Vietnam, when everyone else was turning their back on them. Its an organisation that provides medicine and medical equipment so that doctors and nurses can carry out the work that they are qualified and eager to do. Their emphasis is on support for grass-roots, primary health care projects, primarily for children, and that includes repair of hare lip and cleft palate, cataract operations, treatment and prevention of trachoma, training courses for midwives, provision of hearing aids and so on. In Cambodia they support All Ears Cambodia - more later - and the Disability Development Services in Pursat. You can find out more about them on their new website. And you can support them at their fundraising gig on Saturday 11 November at the Ad Lib club, Fulham Road, London where Threewheeler will perform.
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All Ears Cambodia is leading the way in providing relief for people with hearing impairment and deafness and the preservation and protection of hearing in Cambodia.Their work focuses on vulnerable and marginalized groups within Cambodia, including children and adults from families of minimal social and economic status, physically disabled children, children with other sensory disabilities, children infected with HIV, families affected by landmines, and families living in vulnerable circumstances, such as displaced communities and ones living in mine-affected areas. And its all free. Its an all Khmer operation aside from its director and consultant audiologist and all round good guy, Glyn Vaughan. Their Street 240 headquarters in Phnom Penh is complemented by their outreach programme in three provinces. And their tongue-in-cheek website is worth a visit too.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Forthcoming gigs...

I've been a bit slow on updating my blog about some of the forthcoming gigs from my favourite musicians, so its catch-up time:

Yaz Alexander has a few dates coming up, including this afternoon at the African Heritage Day of Celebration in Birmingham city centre. Also playing will be Gabbidon, led by Basil and featuring Leonie Smith. Regrettably, I can't make the event as its FA Cup day today and I'll be watching Kidderminster Harriers against Droylsden! If I could split myself in half, I would. Yaz (pictured) has a busy schedule ahead of her over the next couple of months and these include appearances at the Music Live event at the NEC on 4 & 5 November, supporting Sylvia Tella and Marcia Griffiths who are at The Drum in Birmingham on Friday 10 November and the Gotham Records Christmas Party in 4 December.

Meanwhile, Gabbidon will make a second appearance at the Jam House in Birmingham on Wednesday, 29 November (9pm) with Yaz guesting on a couple of songs. Jean Mclean, the original Reggaebaby, will be fronting the band Memphis on Sunday 19 November at the Ipanema Bar in Broad Street, Birmingham (7.30pm), singing tracks from her album I'm A Reggaaebaby and paying tribute to artists like Dennis Brown and Bob Marley.

Taking a break from reggae, the legendary Ennio Morricone will be performing at Hammersmith Apollo on Friday 1 December, in the concert re-arranged from the Summer. It'll be only the maestro's third ever appearance in the UK and I'll be there, come hell or high-water. To round off the year in fantastic style, the annual Cry No More christmas party has now been booked for Saturday 23 December (doors 8pm) at the Turks Head, Winchester Road, St Margarets, Twickenham. Roy Hill is now fully recovered from his malaise and will be joined by his deadpan partner Chas Cronk for a night full of merriment and top class entertainment. It'll be a scorcher. You can read about previous christmas parties here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign

No-one can ever accuse the folks at HeritageWatch of standing still. Committed to preserving Cambodia's rich cultural heritage through education projects and campaigns, they kick-off their brand new Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign next month and are leaving no stone unturned in preaching their message, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, in a nationwide appeal. The campaign will seek to promote responsible tourism that'll include arts festivals, arts and crafts expositions, architecture tours, golf tournaments, seminars and expert speaker tours, whilst businesses will be encouraged to become Heritage Friendly. They want to highlight the projects implemented by research teams and arts/culture groups via Insight Magazine with a print run of 100,000 that will be distributed widely to visitors. If you aren't already aware of HW and their tireless efforts, read about them and their new campaign here. My own webpage on HW can be found here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A little slice of Cambodia

A little slice of Cambodia came to my neck of the woods last night in the form of the Cambodian Christian Arts Ministry dance tour of the UK. The tour is nearing its end prior to the group spending a month in France and the Royal Forest of Dean Theatre in Coleford was the venue for this performance, a mixture of Khmer classical and folk dance with some modern elements thrown in for good measure. The tour group was made up of twelve children and three adults and their performance of such classics as the Coconut, Peacock, Fan and Fishing dances were faultless and entertaining for the large audience, which included many children. The CCAM School in Phnom Penh is primarily a home for disadvantaged children and provides the kids with shelter, schooling and promotes the Christian faith. The evening's performance incorporated the Christian message but it wasn't overbearing for a non-believer like myself and it was great to see some of the younger performers meeting up with many of the local children after the show ended. You can find out more about CCAMS here, whilst the tour was sponsored by the SAO Cambodia development agency.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oh, stop complaining....

I remember this moment as though it was yesterday, even though it took place five years ago next month. I usually time my Cambodia trips to avoid the wet season so the broken branches and debris underfoot made this paddle one heck of a painful trek in the forest surrounding the village of Svay Chek, some 25 kms north of Angkor, as we searched for remote temples. I even complained, lightheartedly, that the policeman behind me didn't offer to give me a 'piggy-back' lift through this flooded part of the forest!

Our target temple was Prasat Phnom Dei. My guides deliberated on the best way to approach the temple, hidden in a dense wood, as our way was blocked by waterlogged meadows and trails. They agreed that fording the flooded track was the only answer, so off came my shoes and socks, as we waded up to our thighs through parts of the route. Whilst their feet are hardened to such conditions, the vegetation and debris underwater made it a painful experience for my delicate soles, much to my companion's amusement. In all it took us forty minutes to hack our way through the almost impenetrable forest to the temple. Ah, the things we do for fun...

Read more about this adventure here.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Eco-tourism & vultures on the map

Cambodia is in the horns of a dilemma, its people need to utilise the land to settle and produce rice and other crops, its wildlife needs natural habitat to survive. Its a dilemma faced by countries across the globe. In Cambodia, the natural habitat is dwindling at a fast rate, so the necessity to identify and promote eco-tourism before its too late has never been more important. At the forefront of this battle is the Wildlife Conservation Society, who are working in tandem with the government and local communities in Cambodia to promote wildlife conservation. Current projects are focusing on developing bird-watching at several sites across northern Cambodia with these sites designed to engage local communities in conservation, through establishing links between tourism income and donations, local community development and nature conservation. Some of the bird species that can be seen are amongst the rarest in Southeast Asia, including the critically endangered Giant Ibis, Bengal Florican and others. The key sites are the large waterbird colonies at Prek Toal, the ibises at Tmatboey near Tbeng Meanchey, the floricans in Kompong Thom and the cranes at Ang Trapeang Thmor.

One of the more unusual schemes is the vulture 'restaurant' in Chhep district, some five hours drive to the east of Tbeng Meanchey. WCS works closely with the local community to provide vulture watchers with an opportunity to see rare white-rumped (pictured above), slender-billed and red-headed vultures. Giant Ibises can be seen in the area, in addition to adjutants, cranes, and many others including white-winged ducks. WCS maintains a forest camp for tourists and field staff about 1km from the vulture feeding station. A complete restaurant takes 5-6 days, from killing the cow to when the vultures leave the area. Peak numbers are seen on days 2-4. The restaurant costs around $200 to organize which includes the cost of the cow, maintaining hides, and WCS field rangers, transport, food and accommodation is extra. On the subject of vultures, the latest census has just been completed using a series of vulture restaurants conducted in seven locations across northern Cambodia. The results show an encouraging increase in the total population of vultures from 160 in 2004 to nearly 250 earlier this year. You can find out more about the work of WCS in Cambodia here.

Come join the party

Matt Wenham & Chris Cook, documentary film-makers, are hosting an event at the Picturedrome Pub in Kettering Rd, Northampton on 28 November that will raise money for deprived children in Cambodia, with all proceeds going to the local NGOs featured in their film, Cambodia's Forgotten Children. Tickets are £20 each, the event kicks off at 7pm and will include the first screening of their documentary, an auction and raffle, live music from Brendan Read-Jones and a photography exhibition by Lara Holmes. You can call Matt on 07793764410 or email him here for tickets.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Kratie's rare dolphins

Like so many before and after me, the rare Irrawaddy dolphins that populate the Mekong River in ever-diminishing numbers, were a key reason for visiting Kratie back in December 2000. At the time, I managed to see quite a few of the smooth-headed grey dolphins break the surface at a viewing point called Kampi, which is recognised as the best place to spot these mermaids of the sea. Figures vary, but around 100 dolphins are believed to live in the Mekong between Kratie and the Lao border area, though its a constant worry that fishing, contamination and degradation of their habitat, as well as plans to build large dams on the river upstream in China, will further dilute this precarious population. Because of their tourism value and the need to preserve their numbers, the Irrawaddy dolphins of Kratie are a high priority these days and the Mekong Dolphin Conservation Project works in tandem with the Cambodian government, NGOs and the local populace to raise awareness and develop effective conservation and community programs. However, its a constant battle to save these beautiful creatures. You can find out more here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rithy Panh's dream is realized

Rithy Panh is known internationally for his film-making talents in such features as Rice People and S-21, but in the 90s, he realized that Cambodia's audiovisual heritage was in a critical state. After decades of civil war and strife, the few archives that had been spared seemed to be waiting for time, tropical heat and dust to complete the work of erasing them. The concerns of Panh (pictured on the set of his film S-21) echoed those of the film-maker Ieu Pannakar, who was then responsible for the cinematic division within the Culture and Fine Arts Ministry. The two men dreamt about creating an audiovisual heritage that would play a key role in the expression of a nation’s identity and in the constitution of its heritage.

Now, with technical and financial support from France, the project of collecting the Cambodian audiovisual heritage - in the form of film, photographs, audio tapes and archive material including six Lumiere films dating back to 1899 and shot in Phnom Penh and Angkor - will be realized on 4 December when the Bophana Resource Center will officially open its doors to the public. By choosing the name of Bophana, the Center hopes to bear witness to the message of dignity and courage exemplified by this young woman during her detention in S-21. A brand new website has just been unveiled, here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fred Lipp's so-called retirement

As an introduction to Fred Lipp, children's author and founder of the Cambodian Arts & Scholarship Foundation, here's a story from Money Magazine in America dated October 2005:
"The most important thing in my life right now is to be part of the answer," says Fred. Before he retired, Unitarian Universalist minister Frederick Lipp believed that he and his wife Kitty (pictured) had a pretty good fix on their future. Nothing grand, mind you: They'd retire to a small arboretum in Maine established by Fred's father. Shortly before this idyll was to begin, however, Fred, then 58, found time to write a children's book. It changed everything. Called The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh, the book is based on a Cambodian custom. For a few pennies, a person buys a small caged bird and makes a wish. The bird is then released. If it flies free, the wish is granted. But because the birds are domesticated, they usually return to the seller's cage. Lipp wrote of a Cambodian girl who yearns to escape poverty and eventually discovers how to release a bird that finds freedom and grants her wish.

In 2001, a year after the book was finished, he visited Cambodia for the first time. He was overwhelmed by the plight of countless girls who were unschooled, exploited in the sex trade, living in wretched conditions. With a few thousand dollars drawn from his and Kitty's modest assets, he established the Cambodian Arts and Scholarship Foundation (CASF). Its mission: to help as many girls as possible, affording them clean water, health care and a basic education. Today, running the foundation leaves little time for the arboretum or anything else. While Kitty earns a modest salary as a school guidance counselor, Fred raises money. "When I'm in Cambodia," he says, "I promise the girls I'll do all I can to make their dreams happen." Does he ever long for the peaceful golden years he once anticipated? Hardly. "Retirement," he says, "is a lousy word."

Whilst CASF goes from strength to strength, nurturing and supporting the education of over 275 young girls across Cambodia - read about their vital work here - Fred continues to write lavishly illustrated children's books and will be in London in November to promote his latest book, Running Shoes, with illustrations by Jason Gaillard. It tells the story of Sophy who is able to run the eight kilometres to school each day with the aid of her new shoes. Along with Caged Birds and his other books, these are invaluable tools to aid the education of young children about different cultures.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Veasna Chea - bringing 'good fortune'

Her name means 'good fortune' and that's exactly what she brings people who come into contact with her. Veasna Chea is a shining example of how one individual can make a real difference to the lives of so many others. She's not alone, there are many examples of individuals throughout Cambodia making a significant difference for the better. However, I'm proud to call Veasna, and her husband Peter Leth, good friends so here's a bit more about Veasna and her story so far.

Currently, Veasna is the associate director of the Harpswell Foundation and is their principal Cambodian partner, in the construction of a school in Tramung Chrum and in the last few months, completion of the first women's dormitory providing housing for females attending university in Phnom Penh. Veasna's father and three siblings were killed by the Khmer Rouge. Overcoming tremendous odds, she finished high school and then law school. She was the fourth woman to receive a law degree in Cambodia and graduated first in her class at the Royal University of Law and Economics. In the late 1990s, Veasna worked on human rights issues in the UN office in Phnom Penh. From 2001 to 2003, she worked with Fred Lipp and co-founded the Cambodian Arts and Scholarship Foundation. Veasna has also consulted for numerous NGOs in Cambodia. For the last two years, she has been working with the Harpswell Foundation and she recently received a masters degree from the School for International Training, based in the US. She is totally committed to helping disadvantaged young people, particularly the next generation of women leaders in Cambodia.

In October 2005, Veasna gave birth to a daughter, Angeline and together with husband Peter, they currently divide their time between Cambodia and Sri Lanka, where they have been assisting with the tsunami response. You can read Veasna's own words on the CASF website here. Her work with the Harpswell Foundation continues. The completion of the dormitory will enable girls selected from the provinces to receive previously unavailable university education and leading that program for change is Veasna Chea. Read about the Harpswell Foundation, founded by Dr Alan Lightman, here.

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Memories...

Its hard to believe that its already a week since I was avoiding the pigeons and the water seeping up through the pavement, to marvel at the splendid Piazza San Marco and the medieval St Mark's Basilica at the far end, so neatly mirrored in the waterlogged square. Venice is a great city to wander around though the crowds in the Piazza meant we had to queue for nearly an hour to visit the Basilica and its prized mosaics, on raised boards to avoid the water. One incident brought a loud cheer, when three nuns in full regalia, took off their shoes and pop-socks to wade through the ankle-high water. And yes, that is a pigeon entering the photo from the left.
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Updates from the folks at PEPY have now been joined by Daniela Papi's regular blogging from Phnom Penh, where she is setting up their brand new office. If you can't recall what PEPY are all about, they're a non-profit organisation supporting education projects in Cambodia including building schools, a Bike-to-School Program aimed at increasing access to education, and support for a variety of education initiatives across the country. Read Daniela's blog here and the PEPY site at www.pepyride.org.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

New Steel Pulse compilation

To coincide with the weekend of my 47th birthday, Steel Pulse's latest CD release arrived in the post yesterday, Rastanthology II: The Sequel. Its a second compilation of the band's classic cuts, a decade on from their first Rastanthology collection in 1996. The sixteen tracks, released on their own Wiseman Doctrine label, are taken from their extensive catalogue that spans over thirty years in the reggae music business and includes two tracks, Brown Eyed Girl and Steppin' Out that made it onto the first Rastantholgy CD. The track list is: Make Us A Nation; Blazing Fire; Black Enough; In A Me Life; Global Warning; Blues Dance Raid; Find It Quick; Brown Eyed Girl; Dem A Wolf; No More Weapons; Steppin' Out; Settle The Score; Leggo Beast; The Real Terrorist; Whirlwind Romance; and Wild Goose Chase. The band also released their first official DVD earlier this year, called Introspective and there's been a dub album promised for a while now, so expect that sometime soon. The guys are currently taking a well-deserved rest from touring. I'm particularly proud of the fact that I host the largest Steel Pulse website and archive on the internet and I urge you to read about these true legends of reggae at Steel Pulse On-Line.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Geoff Ryman in the spotlight

Geoff Ryman, perhaps better known for his science fiction books, brought Cambodia's God King Jayavarman VII to life in every sense of the word in his latest novel, The King's Last Song, which was released by HarperCollins in March. If you haven't got this book, I recommend you get a copy, smartish. Meanwhile, in the new edition of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, his latest story, Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter, gets an airing. In addition, Ryman (pictured) has been interviewed about his writing and more by the Chronicles Network and the full interview can be read here. In it, he talks about The King's Last Song and offers up this precis of the book:

"It links the era of Angkor Wat with modern Cambodia and the recent terrible history of the place. Cambodia's greatest King, the saviour of Angkor and its first Buddhist king, has written a fictitious memoir on gold leaves. In 2004, it is discovered and then stolen by ex-Khmer Rouges in protest at the direction the country is going in.
Two modern Cambodians work to get the book back. One is a policeman, an ex Khmer Rouge who fought from the time he was 12 in 1970 until the civil wars ended in 1998. He loves war and is not quite sane, but he's still a respectable man. William is a younger Cambodian who doesn't really remember the wars. He's canny but commercial and in his heart, peaceful. The two become friends, but William doesn't know that the policeman shot his parents at the end of the Pol Pot era.
So it has quotes from the ancient book, all very poetic. It has scenes from Jayavarman's extraordinary life. There's 20,000 words of the policeman's life in the 1980s, fighting the civil wars, and of course a lot about trying to get the book back in 2004. There is no chapter set in the Pol Pot era, as there are so many fine books translated into English about that time written by Cambodians.
The novel covers quite a lot of ground. I think people going to Cambodia would get a much more 3D view of the country if they read it. The Cambodians are delightful, but they are still going through ****. You won't know that as a tourist, but you might like to know that. It might explain why some of the beautiful smiles are fading." [Interview courtesy of Carolyn Hill for the Chronicles Network]. Read about The King's Last Song here.
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I first met ace photographer Jon Ortner, currently working in the American Southwest on a book of the canyons and deserts of Utah and Arizona, at a remote location on top of the Phnom Kulen mountain range in December 2000. As we approached a temple by the name of Prasat O'Pong, we heard voices in the distance. As the tall brick structure came into view through the trees, so did another visitor and his two drivers and guide. It turned out to be no ordinary tourist as Jon introduced himself and it was very clear from his expensive camera equipment that he was no amateur snapper like myself. In fact he was taking photographs for his glorious coffee table book, Angkor - Celestial Temples of the Khmer Empire, which was published a couple of years later. We've remained in touch ever since. And you can now see the exquisite quality of work on-line at his new website, www.ortnerphoto.com.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Apsaras in colour

My thanks to Maria for directing me to an artist who has his art gallery just across the road from The National Museum in Phnom Penh and who has brought a brilliant splash of colour to Cambodia's gorgeous Apsaras. The Asasax Art gallery is already known to many in Phnom Penh but few outside the Cambodian capital. A former art student, Asasax has worked as a painter, decorator and sculptor and has hosted exhibitions of his work especially his Apsara paintings, in both the capital and Siem Reap, where he's now opened up a second gallery. Examples of his work can be found on his website. The above 'Apsara Dancing' painting in acrylics is a fine example of his style, movement and colour.
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Yesterday I highlighted the all-girl group Universal Speakers from Long Beach, California. Today its the turn of the Khmer Angels, another trio of Long Beach residents, namely Lisa, Somalis and Rei, who are extremely popular with the large Khmer and Asian population in California. They originally got together six years ago, after finding their feet in karaoke videos locally. They combine pop songs in English with traditional Khmer tunes and are set to release a new CD very soon. Check them out at their website.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The wanderer returns....

Ciao,
fresh from my long weekend in Italy, its back to the daily grind. However, my very own Italian Job was a roaring success thanks to the generous hospitality of our hosts Andy and Paola and their adorable children, Giovanni and Ella. Padova was a very pleasant city, complemented by the gorgeous sunshine, with its medieval buildings, the lofty domes of the Basilica of St Anthony, its famous university and profusion of stand-up coffee shops, not least the Caffe Pedrocchi. Our stay in the 16th century Palazzo Papafava Dei Carraresi was especially memorable. We enjoyed an afternoon at a family getogether in the pre-Alps as well as a day meandering through the alleys and waterways of Venice, some thirty minutes by train from Padova. Crowds aren't really my cup of tea, so the Piazza San Marco and St Mark's Basilica, awash with travellers from all over the globe, were seen in a rush, though we did linger in the many rooms of the Doge's Palace and along the waterfront. All in all, a weekend to remember.

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I've just heard that the premiere of the documentary film New Year Baby will take place at the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam between 23 Nov-3 Dec. Its a film by Socheata Poeuv (pictured) and her search for the truth about how her family survived the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia and why they kept family secrets locked away for 25 years. The film's extensive website is a goldmine of information about the production.
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Making quite a splash amongst the music fraternity in Long Beach, California are a trio of young Khmericans who go by the name, Universal Speakers. The three girls, who call themselves Vice, Versa and Versatile, compose their own beats, write their own lyrics, record and produce themselves, mixing rap with hip-hop and reggae. Their debut album, No Hard Feelings, is currently on sale in their Long Beach backyard, and they're not the only all-girl group strutting their funk either. To find out more, and hear from Universal Speakers, go to their myspace website.

Friday, October 6, 2006

Brief respite...

A short break away with friends in Padova, near Venice, Italy will mean a brief hiatus from blogging for the next few days. This will be my first getaway since my Cambodia trip in January, so its long overdue. Its also my first taste of Italy, so that's exciting too.

Before I go, a reminder that if any of my readers are aware of a new film, documentary, book or whatever that they think would be a useful addition to this blog, please drop me a line. That also includes any individuals who are making a difference to life in Cambodia and deserve a moment in the spotlight for their good works.

Arrivederci.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

John Thomson - Angkor's 1st photographer

During an eight year period beginning in 1864, Scotsman John Thomson (1837-1921) created a remarkable body of photographs and literary descriptions of the scenes and people of the Far East, earning him recognition as the first of the great photo-journalists. Photographing the architecture, industry, landscape and, most importantly, the people of these areas allowed Thomson (pictured) to produce one of the most renowned photo-historical records in the history of documentary photography. And his photographs of Angkor Wat and its neighbouring temples such as The Bayon were the first-ever to be seen when he published his ground-breaking 1867 book, Antiquities of Cambodia. His photographs were a revelation to a public eager to see and hear about the Far East and Thomson became a celebrity of the day.

It was in 1865 and inspired by Henri Mouhot's account of Angkor, that Thomson set out for Bangkok, where he obtained permission from King Mongkut of Siam to travel into the interior of Cambodia, at the time under Siamese control. Thomson departed on the dangerous trip overland on 27 January 1866 to Laos and Cambodia with student interpreter H. G. Kennedy of the British Embassy at Bangkok, during which time Kennedy saved Thomson's life when the latter contracted jungle fever. They spent two weeks in Angkor, extensively documenting the site and where he took the first photographs of the temples. After taking portraits of the King of Cambodia and the Royal Family in Phnom Penh he returned to Britain in June 1866 with his 60+ photographs of Angkor. He lectured widely and published his work, became quite a celebrity and was awared a fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society. In later life, his photographs of China, Cyprus and the streets of London would earn him much acclaim.
Photo above: John Thomson's part panoramic view of the western facade of Angkor Wat, captured on film for the 1st time in February 1866.

Documentary update...

Back in June, I highlighted an in-progress documentary film, Rain Falls From Earth, that will feature personal interviews with Cambodian holocaust survivors such as artist Vann Nath, ballet dancer Em Theay and Teeda Butt-Mam, all of whom I've featured individually in my blog in the last few months. The film, directed by Steve McClure, is currently in post-production and nearing completion, and has just secured the services of Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actor, Sam Waterston, as the film's narrator. It was Waterston who made such a dramatic impact in his portrayal of the reporter Sydney Schanberg in the acclaimed movie, The Killing Fields. He also served 18 years on the board of Refugees International. We can expect the film's release to be early in 2007, and you can keep up to date with progress at http://www.rainfallsfromearth.com.

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Another documentary, Remnants: An Excerpt of Time, is a concise history of contemporary Cambodian issues ranging from the genocide of the '70s to the continuous devastating effects of it today. Shot on location in various provinces of Cambodia, the film poetically explores both its governmental and economic hypocrisies as well as its cultural and diverse beauty. New Yorker Talissa, who completed the film in May this year, is currently looking for opportunities to screen the film publicly at festivals, film venues, etc. You can find out more about her eclectic work here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Cambodian Christian dancers in UK

Starting later tonight in Gravesend, a ten-date tour of the UK will be undertaken by a dance troupe from the Cambodian Christian Arts Ministry (CCAM) School from Phnom Penh, who will then move onto France for another series of performances. The dancers will mix Khmer classical and folk dance backed by Khmer music with some modern dance, singing and a presentation about the school into a varied programme with some of their own instruments and dressed in traditional dress. The troupe is made up of twelve children, three adult Cambodians and the Ministry's Director. The CCAM School is a Christian Ministry whose mission is to train Cambodians for Christ through the arts and their tour of the UK and France has been organised with the support of SAO Cambodia, a UK based, evangelical, inter-denominational mission and development agency that promotes the Christian faith and helps to relieve poverty and distress in Cambodia. You can find out more about the tour, and the tour dates, at the SAO website. There's also a website for CCAM. I hope to get along to one of the performances later this month. In the photo above, one of the CCAM dancers performs the Blessing Dance.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Claude Jacques - Angkor historian

Claude Jacques (centre) at one of his favourite temples. Photo courtesy of Michael Freeman.
Historian, epigraphist and author, Claude Jacques, is probably the greatest living authorithy on Angkor and the ancient Khmer empire. At 77 years old, he's as active as ever and is just about to publish a lavish 400 page book, The Khmer Empire, with some 430 colour photographs by collaborator Philippe Lafond. Journeying behind the well-known temples of Angkor, Jacques will reveal the marvels of many sites previously inaccessible to most travellers and will include site plans, aerial shots of the cities as well as detailed photographs showing the reliefs and other wonderful carvings. River Books of Thailand are the publishers. Jacques is already a seasoned author, having published two excellent books with ace photographer Michael Freeman, Angkor Cities & Temples in 1997 and Ancient Angkor in 1999.

Claude Jacques was born in France in 1929, studying in Lyon and Paris before a fellowship in India. His first involvement in Cambodia came in September 1961 when he took on the position of professor of epigraphy and art at the Royal Phnom Penh University. Four years later he helped create the faculty of archaeology at the university. Throughout his nine years in Cambodia, he also pursued his own research at Angkor and elsewhere as a member of the EFEO, following in the footsteps of the late great George Coedes, before returning to Paris in 1970. An expert in Sanskrit, Khmer and Cham scripts, he spent the next twenty years teaching SEAsian history at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris, before being appointed a special advisor to the UNESCO director-general for Angkor and Cambodia. It was Jacques who in December 1998 spotted an inscribed stele from the remote Banteay Chhmar complex in an antique shop in Bangkok and raised the alarm that major parts of the temple's carvings had been stolen (with some of them subsequently recovered). He shows little sign of slowing down in his quest to unravel and share the secrets of the ancient Khmer empire.
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