Saturday, August 30, 2014

Before the Fall

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

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Four sides to every story

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

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

White Crocodile

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

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Black Roots history


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

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Unstoppable

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

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Walk on the wild side

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

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

New LP for Cambodia

The new LP to Cambodia cover

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

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Festival of traditions

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

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


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

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

After the verdict

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

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Monday, August 11, 2014

CTFF returns

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

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Amatak Festival

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

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Still on sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy Brouwer
Editor, To Cambodia With Love

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Monday, August 4, 2014

A moving insight

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

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rebuilding lives

Eve Zucker's book, Forest of Struggle: Moralities of Remembrance in Upland Cambodia, was released last year and is an intimate portrait of a village community in the highlands of southwest Cambodia as they struggle to rebuild their lives after nearly thirty years of war and genocide. Recovery is a tenuous process as villagers attempt to shape a future while contending with the terrible rupture of the Pol Pot era. The book tracks the fragile progress of restoring the bonds of community in O’Thmaa and its environs, the site of a Khmer Rouge base and battlefield for nearly three decades between 1970 and 1998. Events had a devastating effect on the social and moral order at the time and continue to impair the remaking of social and civil society today. Particularly relevant with the Khmer Rouge tribunal in full swing and how communities can recover from what they went through. 256 pages and published by University of Hawaii Press.

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