Friday, August 16, 2013

From Om Tuk to Ruin

Malen, one of the two main actors in Ruin
A film - now known as Ruin, though originally titled Om Tuk - and made almost entirely in Cambodia will debut at the prestigious Venice Film Festival at the end of this month. 
Garry Maddox of the Sydney Morning Herald broke the story recently.

On a train between Venice and Rome two years ago, after a successful screening of their film Hail, Australian filmmakers Amiel Courtin-Wilson and Michael Cody changed their plans. Instead of a trip to Cambodia to research a film, they would make one there. ''I was just going to go there and take some photos and make some notes,'' Cody says. ''Then Amiel came and being an extremely motivated type of chap, things sped up. We found ourselves writing two scripts. ''Within about a month, we'd met with 200 people for research purposes, started casting, found a local private investor and decided to start shooting.'' Now they are heading back to the Venice Film Festival with the result of that ambitious exercise.
Ruin, a touching love story shot for less than $1 million with a Cambodian actor and an acrobat in the lead roles, is part of the strongest Australian representation at the prestigious festival in almost two decades. ''This year's Venice selection represents the biggest for Australia in 18 years and marks a growing relationship between our country and the world's oldest film festival,'' Screen Australia's head of marketing, Kathleen Drumm, says. The big surprise was Ruin given it was shot in the Khmer language by two Australians who do not speak it. They relied on translators during long scenes with improvised dialogue. ''We fashioned a very simple notion of a love story/road film, looking at the way love can temporarily transcend trauma,'' says Courtin-Wilson, who is best known for the documentaries Catch My Disease and Bastardy and the feature film Hail. ''It's a fable-like story focusing around violence, trauma and love.'' Ruin was shot in two blocks a year apart. ''It was an experiment and an exercise in sheer will to see if we could will this thing into being,'' Courtin-Wilson says. ''And it's paid off.'' The two filmmakers, who are still finishing Ruin in a Lane Cove post-production house, are delighted by the Venice selection. ''You couldn't really hope for a better launching pad for a film like this that's an art-house gesture,'' Cody says.

Ruin (aka Om Tuk) was Hanuman Film's first full co-production and was made in collaboration with Australian production company Flood Projects. A collective of seasoned practitioners whose work has been selected for Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Sundance, Flood's team includes an academy award nominee. With Kulikar Sotho at the helm as Executive Producer, Michael Cody as Director and Amiel Courtin-Wilson as Producer, the production was filmed in only three weeks after a careful casting selection process and rapid pre-production period. Due to the nature of the film the majority of the shoots were at night in and around Phnom Penh. Other locations included the floating villages of the Tonle Sap Lake and the temples of Angkor. The blurb from the official website for the film,, says the following:
RUIN is an impressionistic fable - the story of Phirun (Ros Mony) and Sovanna (Malen) - two lovers inexplicably drawn together who escape a brutal and exploitative world of crime and violence in modern day Cambodia. Fleeing Phnom Penh after a murder, they travel deeper into the jungle. As their vulnerable love ebbs and flows along their journey, they wake from the trauma of their former lives and unleash a violent rage upon the world. Love and death intermingle as they travel deeper into the abyss- their world strangely transforming around the two young lovers on the run.

Hanuman Films' first full production, The Last Reel, is currently in the editing phase with the final cut expected to be ready within the next few weeks.
The two key actors in Ruin, Mony and Malen, soon to debut at Venice

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