Friday, November 28, 2014

Lunch date

With the lovely Dy Saveth
A great lunchtime date with Dy Saveth and Ma Rynet to Sam Doo restaurant followed by an ice-cream treat at Swensens today. This followed a successful meeting with The Last Reel cast this morning ahead of next week's Cambodia International Film Festival - everyone is looking forward to the festival very much.The Last Reel will screen 3 times and another Hanuman-Kulikar Sotho film, Ruin, will also screen once. The festival will run 5-10 December. The film will also show in Singapore IFF on 7 December. A busy week ahead.
Ma Rynet and Dy Saveth, stars of The Last Reel, enjoy some Swensens-time

It wasn't the hardship I made it look!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

3 screenings in PPenh

A scene from The Last Reel with Ma Rynet
The Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) have announced two more screenings for The Last Reel. After the opening gala night on 5 December (where tickets will be like gold-dust), there will be 2 more showings at 5.30pm on 9 December at Legend Cinema, Tuol Kork and 4.15pm on 10 December at Major Cineplex, Aeon Mall, both in Phnom Penh. Both screenings to be followed by a Q&A with award-winning Director Kulikar Sotho and selected cast members. Be there.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Double Success

Success for both PPCFC Academy teams - again!
Lots of smiles and fist-pumping today as the Phnom Penh Crown Academy teams swept all before them, to pick up both Cambodia Youth League titles, at U-15 and U-17 levels, and once again assert themselves as the undisputed top dogs of youth football in the country. It's the second year on the trot they've won both championships. They won every game they played in at both levels, with the U-15s ending their season this morning with a 1-0 win over the Federation Academy. The U-17s finished their program last week with a 16-0 win. Individually, Suon Noeut collected the Top Scorer award with 13 goals, and he plays right-back, and the two goalkeepers, Kung Rafat and Kung Chanvuthy, won the Best Goalkeeper awards at U-15 and U-17 respectively. The U-17s also won the Fair Play award and rightly so, they play the beautiful game as it should be played. Here are both teams after collecting their medals and trophies. Everyone then decamped to Shabu Shabu Restaurant for a well-deserved celebration meal.


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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