Sunday, March 31, 2013

Testing my camera

The sun brings out my worry lines - I'll try any excuse at least once
Spent a very hot afternoon watching youth football with Rumnea. We got a bit bored during one match and these are the results. I was hot, sweaty and the sun brings out my worry lines. Rumnea has no such problems. In addition, I was trying out my new Sony Cybershot camera. It seems to work.
Not quite sure what Rumnea is attempting to do in this picture


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Talking football

Picture courtesy of - click to enlarge
Not a flattering picture, and definitely not my best angle, but this is myself with Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber, captured by photographer Kem Sovanna before this afternoon's match against Preah Khan Reach. Next time I hope they give me the heads-up so I can do my make-up and get a hair stylist to drop by the dressing room beforehand.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Building frenzy

The pool at Villa Borann

One of the rooms at Villa Borann
Phnom Penh is in the throes of reconstruction. You can hear workmen's tools pretty much everywhere for the duration of each day with the city in a grip of a building frenzy. High on the list of new constructions and renovations is a plethora of boutique hotel accommodation. Behind every green corrugated fence there's a boutique hotel, restaurant or coffee shop sprouting wings. I paid a visit to three of the latest hotels to enter the race for tourist dollars, just as the high season is coming to an end. The biggest of the three – and yet another addition to the group of hotels that includes Plantation, Pavilion, Blue Lime, Kabiki and more – is what they've termed an Asian urban experience, called the TeaHouse Hotel on Street 242. Inspired by the world of tea, it has no less than 52 rooms on four floors, with a TeaLounge for dining and to test out different varieties of tea, a very tiny pool and spa facilities. It still needs some finishing touches in my view, as the rooms are quite bare and the gym isn't ready but it was fully occupied when I visited so they must be doing something right. My first stop had been at Villa Borann, which recently opened its doors on Street 19, in a converted villa with a new extension, offering 14 rooms on three floors with the usual amenities - wi-fi, flat screen, etc - as well as a dining area next to the pool. The bigger rooms were certainly spacious and it got my nod as the best of three. It's sister hotel is the quaint Villa Samnang. The final stop on my mini-tour was at The Sangkum, located in the former French Quarter of the city near the British Embassy on Street 75. With a pool and private garden next to a large, airy dining area, the Sangkum has twelve rooms, adorned with old pictures of the capital, while some rooms have balconies. Again, all the rooms were occupied, so there's definitely a market out there for small boutique hotels, but can it be sustained in the soon-to-arrive low season, well that's another question.
A room at The Sangkum

Its a tiny pool at the TeaHouse

A room at the TeaHouse Hotel

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shors in town

Author, John Shors
John Shors, the author of Temple of a Thousand Faces, will be in Phnom Penh and talking about his book and storytelling at Monument Books on Saturday 6 April from 5pm. The book is set at the time of Jayavarman 7th's Angkor in the 12th century. It's a rattling good read, bringing to life the story of the prince, as he was then, just after his kingdom was overrun by the marauding Chams. We get to peer into the everyday life of fisherfolk on the Tonle Sap Lake as well as inside the palaces of the high and mighty, with at least three love stories weaving through the book's 500-pages. Hot on the tail of John Burgess' A Woman of Angkor, these two novels do a fantastic job of putting some meat on the historical bones of the amazing Angkor Empire, and I thoroughly recommend both of them. Shors is a very popular novelist and his first five novels, Beneath a Marble Sky, Beside a Burning Sea, Dragon House, The Wishing Trees, and Cross Currents, have won multiple awards, and have been translated into twenty-five languages.

Another book to hit the kindles and ebook readers recently is The Definitive Guide to Moving to SouthEast Asia, Cambodia edition, written by Gabrielle Yetter.  Essentially an insider's guide to moving to and living in Cambodia. Gabrielle moved here in 2010 and has also penned a recently-published book for PSE on Cambodian desserts. Students are the target audience of Jeff Hay's Cambodia (Genocide and Persecution), published by Greenhaven Press last month, 240 pages.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Making maths popular

Enjoyed a very pleasant dinner in the company of someone who has been called a pop idol of the science-writing world, Amir Aczel. A lecturer in mathematics and the history of maths and science, Amir has written a series of popular books on the same subjects and he's in Cambodia to track down information for his next book. I won't spoil it but it involves an ancient 7th century Khmer inscription from a little-known temple ruin near Kratie and a remarkable theory that Amir is working on. It's not a novel, it's a mathematical detective story and it simply confirmed the great lengths that some authors will go to check their facts and investigate their sources. My thanks to Amir for a most enjoyable dinner discussion. I look forward to reading the results of his worldwide sleuthing that features Cambodia so prominently.
Footnote. As I often do, a little bit of digging and I see Amir has already explained his discovery on a Q&A for retv television. So I'm not exactly letting the cat out of the bag on this one. He is talking about the number zero. 
"Zero. And the notion of nothing, but a nothing that really exists, it means something very important. It really is an idea that dominates the world as we know it. And zero, according to the research I'm doing now, appeared for the first time in history in the year 683 and was found in Cambodia, a Cambodian temple. This is the first demonstration of zero in history that we have discovered. Of course, it probably existed before but its the oldest ever found. The archaeologist who discovered it is a Frenchman named George Coedes." So there you have it. Amir has conducted research all over the planet and this is his conclusion, the number zero appeared for the first time in a Khmer temple inscription. Mind-boggling.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hot but happy

The Phnom Penh Crown touring party pictured in Battambang
A great way to end our football tour of the northwest provinces of Cambodia was to witness the highs and lows, trials and tribulations of the youth championship finals of the SALT Academy leagues, boys and girls, in Battambang earlier today. There were tears in equal measure for the victors and the defeated, as the youngsters displayed infectious enthusiasm for the game. But boy was it hot, hot, hot. We left our Poipet casino-hotel and headed for Battambang after breakfast. The final matches of the Phnom Penh Crown tour were on the airport pitch of the SALT Academy and the Crown youngsters played first, walloping the local Mighty Girls team 14-0. Which was unexpected. Then the club's senior team took on the best local team and hammered them 8-0. Quite a nice sign-off to the tour. Then came the championship finals with hundreds of youngsters all hoping for glory. The coach journey home from Battambang, driven by the slowest bus driver in history, took forever but was helped by the previously undiscovered karaoke talents of Vi Lika, the team's defender, who was a crooner par excellence, and the comedy genius that is Pheak Rady with his Thank you Tony punchline. Yes, you had to be there.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

On tour

It's been a bit quiet from me as I'm on a football tour of northwest Cambodia for three days with Phnom Penh Crown. Internet access wasn't possible until this morning. I'm currently in a casino hotel in no-man's land between the Cambodian and Thailand borders at Poipet. Everything is in baht, all the workers are Khmer but the tourists/gamblers are Thai and when we got back from a game against local opposition this afternoon, we saw the police bus bringing back a shed-load of illegal immigrants, that is a twice daily occurrence I'm told. We left Phnom Penh on Friday morning, early doors, and had a game in Kompong Chhnang in the morning, followed by another match in Pursat in the afternoon. We then headed for Poipet, arriving at 10.30pm and booking into the Genting Crown Casino, just one of many large casino hotels in no-man's land. Tomorrow we leave early for Battambang for another game before we head home in the afternoon. It's Phnom Penh Crown's tour of the northwest provinces, designed to give us some practice matches against local opposition, to bring our team to the attention of the rural population and to make new friends. We've certainly achieved all of those to-date.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

In the frame

lebOOst snaps Rumnea and me at Pontoon last night - click to enlarge
lebOOst snapper Linda captures the moment at last night's Cambodia Comedy Club with Rumnea and myself. Courtesy of

An old friend, Soumya James has published her doctoral dissertation on the divine feminine in Khmer art in The Symbiosis of Image, Monument and Landscape: A Study of Select Goddess Images at Prasat Kravan, Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei in Camnodia. I remember meeting Soumya many moons ago in the Rising Sun restaurant/bar in Phnom Penh for a chat. She later wrote three articles in my own book, To Cambodia With Love. She was working at the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University, USA. A review of her dissertation can be read

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Talking drugs is not big or funny

Compere Andrew Clay from New Zealand
The professional stand-ups on show at tonight's Cambodia Comedy Club at Pontoon gave a masterclass to the pretenders on exactly how hard a job it is to make people laugh. Compere Andrew Clay and top of the bill Marcus Ryan did it very successfully and quite effortlessly. And therein lies the secret, don't try too hard. And blow me down neither used drugs as a major source of their material, which made for a very pleasant change from the norm. Of course, sex was never far from their observations but both were witty and genuinely funny, with Clay holding the show together despite a power outage that made everyone in the room jump. There was nothing to choose between them, they both did a damn fine job of entertaining the mostly expat audience. Meanwhile, the three local expats from Phnom Penh, trying out their material for a second time, clearly have a very long way to go, though thumbs-up to them for standing up and giving it their all. Finally, Luwita Randhawa, on holiday from Malaysia, was another one of the open-mic'ers and I must say, was polished, dry and made me titter. She can certainly come again, as can the likes of Clay and Ryan.
Stand-up comic Marcus Ryan, an Australian living in London


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sweet tooth

PSE, or Pour Un Sourire d'Enfant to our French friends, the NGO that provides education and safety for children scavenging off garbage dumps, have brought out a new book, available at Monument Books, called The Sweet Tastes of Cambodia as a fundraiser for their cooking school. It documents traditional dessert recipes from various regions of the country as well as paints a picture of the cooks, the villages, the legends and the countryside. Written by expat Gabrielle Yetter. PSE have training restaurants in BKK1 and in Stung Meanchey in Phnom Penh.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

The plot thickens

The Last Reel is a Cambodian owned, produced and financed feature film. The Producers believe that The Last Reel is uniquely placed to lead a cinema revival in Cambodia. The Last Reel is about filmmaking and filmmakers - a nostalgia for the glory days of Cambodian cinema and a rallying call for the re-emergence of the film industry in the contemporary context. Filming, under the control of debutant director Kulikar Sotho, will begin next month, with the film's release scheduled for 2014. The film's cast will include Dy Saveth, Ma Darnet and Sok Sithoun.

The plot for the film is as follows:
When Sophoun, the directionless daughter of a hard-line Khmer Colonel runs away from an arranged marriage, she finds refuge in an abandoned cinema. There she discovers an incomplete melodrama from pre-Khmer Rouge times, a film which starred her now desperately ill mother as a young woman; a different world, a different time. With the help of the elderly projectionist, she decides to remake the missing last reel. By screening the film to her mother, she hopes to remind her of a life she'd once lived and try to mend the psychological scars that still torment her. But no one and nothing is what it seems. Remaking the last reel offers Sophoun a chance to dictate her own destiny but at the cost of uncovering some painful truths about her family and her past.

I'll bring you more as the feature film develops.

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Entertain us

Two main events this week, on the entertainment front at least, with the Cambodia Comedy Club expected to fill the air with laughter this Wednesday (20 Mar) at Pontoon as professional stand-up comics, Marcus Ryan (Oz) and Kiwi Andrew Clay, join forces with a bunch of local expat amateurs. It could be the recipe for a lot of fun, or it could go tits-up. I'll be there to witness which way the wind blows. Then on Friday (22 Mar), Equinox on St 278 will host yet another final/last/goodbye/going away party for The Cambodian Space Project, who've had more of these occasions than any one I know. They are off on yet another whizz around the globe so catch them this Friday before they disappear - hopefully not once and for all.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Overnight sensation

Douglas DeMarco's book
I haven't seen or read this book but Douglas DeMarco's From the Booth to the Bedroom, came out a couple of years ago and purports to be a true story of an American who became an overnight celebrity in Phnom Penh. 238 pages and published by Godiva Books in June 2011. It's a story of a single guy in these parts judging by the on-line snippets I've read, who was involved in TV and radio in Cambodia.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Jugsy's in town

And the ATM machine came too. Jugsy and Denise (right) with Rumnea and myself
Enjoyed an Italian dinner at Pop Cafe on the riverside for the first time as Julian and his wife Denise arrived in Phnom Penh and we took the opportunity to catch up. I haven't seen Jugsy since we played football together for Charlton Kings back in the late 1980s and on his first visit to Phnom Penh, he thought he'd look me up. Like me, he's hung up his football boots but he still plays cricket for Charlton Kings, which keeps him out of Denise's hair at weekends. They were combining Cambodia with a visit to the Mekong Delta and then attending Denise's brother's wedding in Koh Samui.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Enjoy the day, Grizz

Steve Grizzly Nisbett at home in 2004 - click to enlarge
Today is the birthday of one of the legendary reggae drummers, Steve Grizzly Nisbett. Though he had to curtail his live appearances with his band, Steel Pulse, back in 2001, he's appeared on stage with them a couple more times but for health reasons, he's been unable to be part of their incredible touring schedule, which continues to take the band all over the globe. Steve's father was part of the Windrush exodus from the Caribbean to England in the 1950s and Steve followed him over a little later. He wasn't a reggae drummer to start with but after joining the band in 1977, he became known across the reggae fraternity as one of the very best. I sat down with Grizzly for a couple of long chats about his career in late 2003 and early the following year and you can read all about the great man here.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013


Me and my moto - a cartoon by Bun Heang Ung - click to enlarge
One of my favourite cartoonists is Cambodian-born Bun Heang Ung, who lives in Australia. I'm biased as he drew the animated banner on my website as well as the above cartoon of me riding a moto. But also because of his incredible story of survival which he tells in the memoir, The Murderous Revolution: Life and Death in Pol Pot's Kampuchea, written with Martin Stuart-Fox, and containing sixty black and white drawings, which are simply brilliant. I recommend the book without a moment's hesitation. Bun Heang Ung is also known for his searingly satirical caricatures and cartoons, which he first produced for the Far Eastern Economic Review and then his own website, Sacrava Toons. In July 2006 he sent me a few cartoons of myself , one of which I've re-posted above.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rib-tickling Ryan

Marcus Ryan returns to Cambodia
Mirth and merriment is scheduled for Wednesday 20 March at Pontoon in Phnom Penh. It's the next edition of the Cambodia Comedy Club and will include both professional and wannabe stand-up comics. The professionals are Andrew Clay from New Zealand, apparently a legend in his own lifetime, and Aussie Marcus Ryan. More used to strutting his comedic stuff in the UK, he's been on stage in Cambodia before, in 2011, so he's an old-hand at all this and claims to be the first stand-up act to perform in Siem Reap. Unless you know differently. His current gig list looks like this - Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Hawaii, Vancouver, Calgary, New York and London. Now that is globetrotting comedy at its finest. Hoping to make their family and friends laugh out loud will be three local expats, who have taken a course in how to tickle ribs and will be putting their studies to the test, alongwith Malaysian visitor Luwita Randhawa. Kicks-off at 8.30pm and costs $8.

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Proud day but it didn't last

Off to senior school, in my case, Cheltenham Grammar School
I believe that this was one of the proudest days of my mum's life. That's what she told me at the time. Her second son (that's me) had passed the test to go to Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys, to join his older brother. She even brought me a bicycle once it was known I'd passed. The very best students in the town went to CGS she whispered in my ear, as she kissed it. I don't remember much about my mum, but I remember this. I must admit I felt proud as well as we took this photo on my first day. I was 11 years old, and it must've been 1971. Before we even got around the corner, my brother had whisked the cap off my head and thrown it on a neighbour's garage roof. It was downhill from there. I can honestly say I detested much of my time at CGS, the study was tough, though I loved history and british constitution and sports, obviously, it was a long bus ride across town each day, the homework was never-ending and it was difficult to make real good friends I found. I even got the cane from the deputy head in a case of mistaken identity. I could go on but I won't. Suffice to say, when I was sixteen I couldn't wait to leave. It was a door I desperately wanted to close shut.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mum and her 3 boys

Mum and her 3 boys in 1969
Two more snaps from the mum and her three boys photo album. There was no father figure around from the time I was born - okay, it was 1959 if you must know - until just before our mum died when I was thirteen years old. So its very appropriate that these snaps are of mum - Josephine Elizabeth - and us young chaps, Paul, myself and Tim, in that age order. In the top photo, Paul is actually wearing a fluffy white cravat and large ears, whilst I'm sporting my school tie, Christchurch Junior Mixed School. We're outside the front door of our Tennyson Road home in 1969.The picture below was a little later, early 1970, and taken on a visit to my grandparents I reckon. I can't recall the dates but I'm pretty sure they both died soon after this, just a few months apart. I loved those dirty grey trousers I'm wearing and for shoes, cheap plastic sandals were the order of the day. Money was tight. Whoever took the picture deliberately cut off Paul's head because of his ridiculous hairstyle that had grown out of all proportion since his picture a few months earlier, when he was sporting an entirely different hair-do. Me, I was more of a straight fringe kinda guy.
Mum and her 3 boys in early 1970. Mum died two years later.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Mary Neth in good company

A poignant screen-shot from the movie trailer to The Last Reel
The Last Reel will combine a nostalgia for the glory days of Cambodian cinema with a rallying call for the re-emergence of the film industry today. The plan is to distribute Kulikar Sotho's feature debut internationally, with showings at major film festivals in Europe, Asia and Australia, and of course, here in Cambodia. But first it has to be filmed and completed. So far a movie trailer has been finished and is being used to generate funding. Filming is scheduled to start next month. October will be the target date to have the film in the can, so to speak. At last week's trailer party, sitting alongside the major name on the cast list, Dy Saveth, was the young woman who will carry the film's story on her delicate shoulders. Ma Darnet, or Mary Neth or Srey Neth as she's known to friends and family, is a 22-year-old actress hailing from Battambang, who was involved in one of the most popular local television series, Airwaves, as the character Chantha, as her training ground for her first major feature film lead. With one of the leading ladies from the Golden Age of Khmer films of the 60s and 70s, Dy Saveth as her mother, and actors like Sok Sithoun on board, who appeared in Two Shadows, then Mary Neth, and her character Sophoun, is already in very good company.
Meeting the lead actress in The Last Reel, Mary Neth

Mary Neth adding her signature to the movie poster

Lead actor Sok Sithoun signing his signature

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Vink's view

30 Years for a Trial is an e-book that reports on the trial of Duch, alias Kaing Guek Eav, the infamous director of 'S21', a Khmer Rouge interrogation center where 15,000 people were tortured and subsequently executed between 1975 and 1979 in Cambodia, a fraction of the 1.7 million people estimated to have died during the Pol Pot regime. Taking into account the pace of the ongoing trials at the ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers at the Courts of Cambodia) and the age of the 4 other accused Khmer Rouge leaders, Duch may well be the only Khmer Rouge cadre to be sentenced. With 123 pages, a text by Phnom Penh based journalist Robert Carmichael about Duch's trial, a multimedia slideshow, over 200 photographs and a text by John Vink giving an insight on the context of the trial and a reflection on the backstage activities of the ECCC, this e-book sheds some additional light on what in fact is the first international trial of a left wing totalitarian regime. Find out more @ 30 Years for a Trial.

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fashion victim

Apparently long hair was fashionable in 1978
More nostalgia, recalling those heady days when long hair was all the rage in 70s. This passport-booth picture was taken in 1978, I was 18 and incredibly, I'm wearing a medallion. I don't wear jewellery whether its rings, bracelets and necklaces, so I'm not sure how this medallion found its way around my neck. Very strange. You can also see my flyaway collars, another fashion statement of the time. Bloody hell, I've still got those lines on my face when I smile and those bags under my eyes!


Friday, March 8, 2013

Nostalgia pangs

May 1966 - the three boys and Tony Witts
Like anyone in their fifties, I get pangs of nostalgia from time to time. You don't need to wait til your fifties, you can get them anytime. When it washes over me, I reach for my old photo albums and realise yet again that I don't have nearly enough pictures of myself, family and friends from the past. Not having a family camera didn't help when I lived at home. Nowadays of course, its second nature to take a picture of everything on your mobile phone, but back in the 60s and 70s that wasn't the case. This particular photo is a rarity. It may be the only one in existence of my natural father with his three sons from his relationship with my mum. They never married as he was married to someone else. He finally arrived to take over as our guardian as my mum was dying, around the time I was thirteen years old. I didn't even know he was my father. I just assumed he was my mum's boyfriend. I kinda worked it out by the time I was sixteen and asked him if he was my father. His response was; "of course I am, didn't your mother tell you?" Well, actually no she didn't. Plus there's her ex-husband's name on my birth certificate. The penny dropped when I realised that all three boys looked alike, and my mum's husband had left the marital home before I was born. As you might imagine, I didn't have a meaningful father-son relationship with Tony Witts. I grew up without a father. That never changed.
The photo was taken in May 1966. I know because my mum wrote the date and our names on the back of the picture - Paul, Andrew and Timothy. Tony is holding Tim, Paul is the tallest with long trousers and I look as though I want to go to toilet. It was taken on the grass outside our house at Tennyson Road. As my mum's boyfriend, Tony must've been paying us a visit and she surreptitiously snapped a photo of us together. I was six years old.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Reel life

Director Kuilikar Sotho with one of her leading actors, Dy Saveth
The Last Reel became more of a reality for the cast and crew as they gathered at the family home of first-time director Kulikar Sotho to watch a trailer of the movie, which will be used to drum up financial support at home and abroad, ahead of shooting, which will begin next month. Dy Saveth, who plays the family matriarch, and who is regarded as the most prominent actress of the Golden Age of Khmer Cinema, was there with the rest of the leading characters, ahead of the four to five weeks of shooting that will bring to life the story written by Ian Masters. A tale of family conflict spanning three eras; the 1960s Sihanouk era, the Khmer Rouge and contemporary times, the film will tap into the resurgence of interest in 60s and 70s cinema and music, as well as promoting independent female thought, which can't be a bad ideal in anyone's book. I'll bring you more on the film's production as it takes place, with filming locations expected to be in Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh.
How could I resist a picture with the gorgeous Dy Saveth

The main male leads in the film in jubilant mood
Adding her signature to the film poster is Dy Saveth

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The Reel deal

You'll be hearing a lot more about this film, so pin back your lug-holes and hear what the online Screen Daily had to say about The Last Reel recently, the debut feature film for director Kulikar Sotho.

Cambodia's Sotho lines-up Om-Tuk, Last Reel - by Sandy George (Screen Daily)
Filming wraps in a few days in Cambodia on the international co-production Om-Tuk which Australian writer/directors Amiel Courtin-Wilson and Michael Cody are producing alongside Phnom Penh-based Kulikar Sotho. Sotho is also gearing up to direct her first feature, The Last Reel, written and produced by the UK’s Ian Masters. She co-owns Hanuman Films, a service company that first worked on Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and most recently on the Australian drama Wish You Were Here. Om-Tuk is being filmed in the Khmer language and focuses on two young Cambodians who are not accepted by society and find it difficult to trust anyone because of the trauma they have experienced.
The film will combine elements of a love story, a road movie and a crime drama – and it has a metaphysical edge. Courtin-Wilson and Cody spent three months late last year researching, writing and filming in Cambodia, coming up with two potential projects. “The idea was to fold real stories into the fiction-writing process,” Cody told Screendaily, adding that it was a similar methodology as the one used for Hail, the previous film directed by Courtin-Wilson. “We got a lot of great material and detail and this has given the film a lot of authenticity.” After editing and further working on the script of Om-Tuk back in Australia, the pair returned to Cambodia in early January for the rest of the filming. The government agencies Screen Australia and ScreenNSW, and a private investor, are supporting the project. Cody formed a bond with Cambodia a decade ago when he reported on the country for ABC TV. He has returned many times since.

The Last Reel will tell a universal story of contemporary inter-generational conflict but also looks back at Cambodia’s painful past, namely the genocide and brutality of the 1970s. Sotho said about 60% of the budget was in place. “It is a story about the overwhelming human need for stories and storytelling as part of a healing process,” says Sotho. “If having watched our film, young people in Cambodia are inspired to talk to their parents about the past, and vice-versa, I believe that the film will have contributed to this healing process … There would be no greater reward for me than to inspire the next generation of Cambodians to become filmmakers.” Sotho said the film also sends the message that women should not be frowned upon for being independent in thought and action. The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is currently examining in Cambodia.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Steel Pulse - live & direct

Kudos to the webmaster of the brand new Steel Pulse website which was launched yesterday. It's a corker. Stacks of quality information including interviews with the band members and so much more. It must've taken an age to put together. Excellent job. Amidst my delving into the new site I came across the Fans page and I must admit to blushing profusely when I read the following:

Big up the #1 Steel Pulse fan in the world: Andy Brouwer (center, below) - the original Pulser! Andy's site gives you a behind-the-scenes look at Steel Pulse. He's got details you won't find anywhere else. Check it!

Thank you Steel Pulse, for a lifetime of fabulous music. 


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Two strikes

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal came to a shuddering halt yesterday when the Interpretation and Translation Unit announced to all and sundry that they were going on strike over three months worth of unpaid salaries, leaving judges and everyone else sat in the court, in limbo. Funds for the Tribunal have been a touchy subject for a long while, with the international and national components scratching around donor countries to make ends meet. The 30 ITU staff had simply had enough. Some 270 local staff have not been paid since November because the Cambodian-funded side of the UN-backed court says it doesn't have the cash to pay them. It's a sad and sorry state of affairs when local staff feel they have no other recourse than to take such punitive action.

Up in Siem Reap, power has been restored across temple town after four days of blackout. A truck crashed into an electricity pylon - most of the town's power comes overland from Thailand - and caused the whole of Siem Reap to lose its electricity supply last Thursday. There were threats that it might last a week so there was a rush to buy generators amongst small businesses and individuals. Most of the major hotels weren't affected as they already had back-up supplies. It pisses me off when I lose electricity for a couple of hours, which has been the case in recent weeks, so I couldn't imagine a four-day blackout.

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Support the CTFF

Support the Cambodia Town Film Festival in Long Beach - or else!
The Cambodia Town Film Festival 2013 will be held in Long Beach, California in September. Khmer rap artist PraCh Ly, who is a mover and shaker in the Long Beach Cambodian community, co-ordinator of their annual Khmer New Year celebrations and founder of their Film Festival, as well as his own Mujestic Records, asked me to help advertise it. In front of one of Phnom Penh's iconic landmarks. The Olympic Stadium seemed a good idea, hence the photo above. Okay, so its not the most flattering pose, and I'm more likely to put people off, but the message is clear. Support the Cambodia Town Film Festival. The festival showcases the very best in Cambodian cinema. From narrative animation to documentary features, from original shorts to award-winning independent films, the festival highlights the exciting work done by Khmer/American filmmakers. Acknowledging the breadth of Khmer film, the festival will also include free screenings of old Khmer films alongside exclusive premiers. Find out more @

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Evening party-time

The happy couple, walking the line
Continuing the wedding party theme of today, it was off to the New World restaurant with Rumnea this evening to join the celebrations for Srey Nich and Chanthy. Pretty much standard fare as wedding parties go but instead of going through the motions, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, either on the dancefloor or downing as many bottles of beer as they could muster. Petite Mouyhour was a whirlwind, targeting me as soon as we arrived and then demanding a balloon fight-cum-dance later in the proceedings. At just under four, she has more energy than I ever had. There was a definite buzz to this party, though it was hot on the dancefloor and the madizon seemed to carry on forever. As the only johnny-foreigner there, I stood out like a sore thumb amongst the ranks of the older Khmer ladies who were line-dancing and jiving to their hearts content. Good evening.
Mouyhour stops for a second for a photo

Rumnea looking as sparkling as ever

A left-over snap from this morning's biscuit-carrying exercise


Early morning wedding duties

The adorable Mouyhour at this morning's wedding
I was awake as the music started at 6am this morning, to signal the start of today's wedding celebrations for Srey Nich and Chanthy. Rumnea arrived to join in the gift-carrying walk that represents the groom's family bringing gifts to the home of his new wife. We carried trays of biscuits. Then it was time for some porridge inside the tent erected across the street in front of my house, before I left the family and guests and headed for the office. I will rejoin the party later tonight when it moves to the wedding restaurant. Star of the show was definitely the tiny princess Mouyhour, niece of the bride, resident of Battambang and my favourite.
Rumnea gets to carry a tray of biscuits in the procession - as did I

The cameraman adjusts the clothes of the happy couple

Mouyhour with her grandparents and my landlords


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