Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Boycott Nhem's book

The infamous Khmer Rouge photographer at Tuol Sleng/S-21, Nhem En, is publishing a book about his experiences as a cadre at the prison next month, co-written with Dara Duong. If he were to donate all proceeds to KR victims/survivors then I would promote it - that is about as likely as me flying to the moon. His previous track record suggests this is purely a money-making venture, as have been his myriad schemes (including selling Pol Pot's shoes) in the past. If you want to buy books about what happened at S-21, I recommend the ones written by the survivors, Vann Nath, Bou Meng and Chum Mey. The latter two gentlemen can be found in person, selling their books at S-21 most days. They are the ones who should reap some benefit.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Kulen by Coates

Journalist Karen Coates, who wrote the excellent Cambodia Now book, gives us her perspective on Phnom Kulen in the latest edition of Archaeology Magazine @ http://www.archaeology.org/issues/165-1501/letter-from/2779-letter-from-cambodia-phnom-kulen. A typically excellent article from Karen, and if you haven't read Cambodia Now for its look at today's Cambodia, then get a copy immediately. It's fifteen years since I visited Phnom Kulen for the first time, and my visits there have given me so many stories to tell.

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Eating out

LtoR: Tim, Tam and me (with my piercing eyes)
One of only two photos of myself and Tim during his recent visit to Phnom Penh. Sandwiched in between, poor girl, is Tam from Saigon, who was in town for a couple of days. She was one of liaison officers for the football tournament in Vietnam a few weeks ago that I attended and was in Phnom Penh on a brief business visit, and found time to have a meal with us before heading back home. She's just finished her job as a weather and news girl on Vietnam TV. Very enjoyable company. After a recent bad run of luck with restaurants, it was nice to have a meal that didn't disappoint, at Le Table Khmere.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Steel Pulse play the UK

Steel Pulse pictured this week
Steel Pulse's UK gig-list for next year has been announced, with the band performing their 1978 Handsworth Revolution album in its entirety at each show. They are currently working on a new studio album, slated for release later in 2015 and the documentary - Steel Pulse ‘The Definitive History.’ Here's the band pictured this week, hanging tough (LtoR; Jerry, Amlak, Sid, Selwyn, David, Keysha, C-Sharp, Moonie).
Steel Pulse April 2015 UK dates:
Thu 2 Apr Manchester, The Ritz
Fri 3 Apr Birmingham, The Library
Sat 4 Apr London, The Forum – London International Ska Festival
Sun 5 Apr Brighton, Concorde 2.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

With my bro

Pictured with Tim at football, by Dany
Tim's arrived for a month so its been a bit full-on the last couple of days. Hardly time to breathe, let alone sleep. Spent today under the sun in Tuol Kork watching PPCFC's Academy teams comprehensively beat their opponents this morning and afternoon, and enjoyed lunch at Metro at TK Avenue in between. Soon off to watch more live football on the big screen after trying further epicurean delights. Last night was the comedy club at Equinox and it wasn't much to write home about, aside from BJ Fox's stint at the mic. Having been weaned on a live stand-up diet of Frank Skinner, Steve Coogan, Lee Evans, Paul Merton and Jeff Green, for starters, it takes a lot to impress us.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Battambang's cinemas

Prasat Meas cinema facade in Battambang
The run-down cinemas of Battambang get their day in the sunshine with this article from the Phnom Penh Post, including an interview with Kulikar Sotho, the director of The Last Reel, which used the old cinemas as a central theme in the film. http://www.phnompenhpost.com/post-weekend/relics-cambodias-cinematic-golden-age - here's my own pic of the Prasat Meas cinema facade.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Life-like quality

Dancer by Nhem Sopheap
I was very impressed with the life-like quality of a couple of paintings by the female Khmer artist Nhem Sopheap at Meta House tonight. It was the opening of a new exhibition of paintings by the best three artists of the 2nd Cambodian fine arts contest at RUFA in 2013. The 25-year old artist has six paintings in the exhibition, they are all good but these two stood out for me, dancer and story of Apsara. She was also the Dream Girls design winner in 2013 and her Apsara designs can be found on products at the Wakana shop at AEON Mall. Definitely an artist to watch out for.
Story of Apsara by Nhem Sopheap

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Monday, December 15, 2014

In post production

Expect this documentary sometime in 2015, it's currently in post production. The following text is taken from the film's website. When Dr. Haing S. Ngor was forced into labor camps by the Khmer Rouge, little did he know he would escape four years of torture and be called upon to recreate his harrowing experiences in a film that would earn him an Academy Award. For the Cambodian-Chinese doctor, “Nothing has shaped my life as much as surviving the Pol Pot regime. I am a survivor of the Cambodian holocaust. That’s who I am.” And little did anyone know that some twenty years later, Dr. Ngor would be gunned down in a Los Angeles Chinatown alley. How could it be that he would survive the tyranny of the Khmer Rouge, only to be murdered by gangbangers in America? The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor chronicles Dr. Ngor’s remarkable life journey – from a privileged life in Phnom Penh to his murder in Los Angeles - a case still muddled with theories of international conspiracy. At a time when The Killing Fields movie would be the world’s first wake-up call to the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, Dr. Ngor used his Hollywood celebrity status and became the de facto “face of Cambodia” to command global attention to the devastation of his homeland. From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge’s social experiment to transform the country into a communist agricultural utopia caused the deaths of some 1.7 million Cambodians who perished from mass starvation, forced labor, torture, slavery, ethnic cleansing, and political executions. Dr. Ngor was an early and staunch advocate for a Khmer Rouge tribunal, a development that finally began in 2009 and currently mired by political maneuvers. He opened an orphanage in Phnom Penh, built a schoolhouse in his home village, and delivered medical and humanitarian supplies to refugee camps. He publicly admonished world governments for ignoring the plight of his countrymen. His is an inspiring survivor’s story of reconciliation with the horrors of the genocide – a nightmare that continues to haunt Cambodia today as the country is grappling with corruption, poverty, and the impunity of aging Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial. To be produced, directed, and written by Oscar-nominated and three-time Sundance award-winning filmmaker, Arthur Dong, The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor will be a singular documentary on one of the most well-known Cambodians and survivors of the genocide. It’ll use an iconic movie, The Killing Fields, as a springboard to combine history and biography into a dramatic transnational narrative. The feature-length film will unfold through an imaginative blend of original animation, rare archival material, and newly shot footage, combined with an adaptation of Dr. Ngor’s moving autobiography, Survival in the Killing Fields (co-written with Roger Warner). Visit the website @ http://haingngorfilm.com/.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

From the closing party

I'm in the middle with Pich Hemrith and Dy Julie, courtesy of The Khmer Times
A few pictures from the closing party of the Cambodia International Film Festival, held at The Mansion last week. 15,000 people crammed into various cinemas around town during the festival, which is a big bonus for all concerned. There were quite a few who didn't get to see the films they were hoping for, but films like The Last Reel will be on general release sometime in 2015 and I hear The Gate will be out in February.
In between two of the stars, Ma Rynet and Dy Saveth

My eye has caught something

The stars of The Last Reel, Ma Rynet and Dy Saveth

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Celebration weekend away

The PPCFC Academy party on Ochheuteal Beach, Sihanoukville
I never go to Sihanoukville. Its a personal choice but I relented at the weekend to join the Phnom Penh Crown Academy's celebration weekend away, as the reward for winning the youth league's at U-15 and U-17 levels. The boys did extremely well and deserved it. And had a great time, especially on the visit to the island of Koh Ta Kiev, jumping from the boat into the sea and on the beach. I on the other hand, got sunburned. I should know better. I never learn. The boys also played football-volleyball on Ochheuteal beach and drew quite a crowd, and enjoyed a barbeque. Overall a fun weekend away. Here's our party on the beach and the best of the 'look at me' boat dives from Mat Sakrovy.
Mat Sakrovy makes a splash

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All's well that ends well

At the 3rd screening Q&A, Dy Saveth, Ma Rynet, Kulikar Sotho
As expected, a full house and many people turned away at the final screening of The Last Reel at AEON Mall yesterday. All went very well except a lot of disappointed film-goers, but that was the circumstances of the festival and well beyond the control of anyone to do with the film. A party at The Mansion later on rounded off the festival for another year. Here are some pictures from yesterday's third and final screening at Major Cineplex. There was a brief Q&A with director Kulikar Sotho after the screening as well as interviews for the stars of the film, Ma Rynet and Dy Saveth.
The regal Dy Saveth

The belle of the festival, Ma Rynet

With Ma Rynet at the 2nd screening of TLR at Legend

The Last Reel team face the audience

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Party time

At the rock concert with Dy Saveth and Ma Rynet, and my coke can. Pic by Vann Channarong
Is Dy Saveth a machine? I attended the Don't Think I've Forgotten screening at Chaktomuk Theatre tonight and followed that with the Cambodian rock concert by the Drakkar band at The Mansion. I turned up with Ma Rynet and watched in awe as Dy Saveth didn't stop dancing for the whole gig, she has the stamina of a world class athlete, putting me and everyone else to shame. An amazing woman. Great crowd and a good evening, albeit a sweaty one, for all who came.
More of the two starlets of The Last Reel

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Opening night success

In a suit for the first time for years, with the gorgeous Dy Saveth
The opening night of the Cambodia International Film Festival went off swimmingly well for The Last Reel, as the festival's opening film and universally loved by everyone there, as far as I could make out. There was standing room only in the 320-seat theatre and I had to sit on the carpet steps to watch! Being involved in the film's team doesn't guarantee a comfy seat at the premiere. Kulikar, the director, was given the Spirit of Asia award by the Japanese Ambassador afterwards, and a picture of me chatting to the Cambodian Culture Minister Ms Phoeurng Sackona, made it onto the Sabay news page (pics courtesy of Sabay). Finished the evening with a late-night meal with Lenna and her family. A great day.
Sabay captured the Culture Minister Ms Phoeurng Sackona chatting with some guy holding Dy Saveth's handbag

Kulikar receives her Spirit of Asia Award

A few of the cast from The Last Reel

Kulikar enjoying the moment and rightly so

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Evening entertainment

In conversation with the German Ambassador, Joachim Baron von Marschall
A few more pictures from the private screening of Kulikar Sotho's The Last Reel at the home of Prince Sirivudh last night with an audience of mostly members of the diplomatic corps.
The camera needs adjusting - it squashed my face

The Hanuman crew take their bow at the end of the screening

Watching the Q&A after the screening

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CIFF - ones to watch out for

A few interesting films to watch out for at the Cambodia Film Festival that kicks-off tomorrow. Obviously The Last Reel is the one to watch, with screenings on 5th (invitation-only), 9th and 10th (both open to the public). Sure to be standing room only. For Cambodian Golden Age music lovers, Don't Think I've Forgotten will screen at Chaktomuk Theatre on Sunday 7th at 6pm and at 8.30pm the same night, there will be a special concert to celebrate the event at The Mansion. An edgy road movie, Ruin, a film that Hanuman's Kulikar Sotho had a hand in as producer, will screen on 9th at 9pm at the French Institute. The Gate, the story of Francois Bizot's incarceration with Comrade Duch, will screen on 7th and 9th. Its 80 films from 26 countries for the festival including focus on Korean cinema, and a few others to look out for include documentaries such as The Stolen Warriors, the story behind stolen Khmer treasures, Angkor's Children, Selapak, Duch - Master of The Forges of Hell and Le Grand Tour. Get to some of the screenings and support the festival. There are nine venues with the Major Cineplax at AEON and Legend at TK Avenue hosting The Last Reel showings, but the French Institute cinema and Bophana Center are by far the busiest of the locations with the bulk of the screenings between them.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Special screening

A quick snap from tonight's screening
Ahead of the Cambodia Film Festival that starts on Friday, director Kulikar Sotho gave a private screening of The Last Reel, which will open the festival, to an audience of ambassadors and diplomats at the home of Prince Norodom Sirivudh this evening. A very nice occasion.

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Travel writing

click to enlarge
Make a date in your diary. Monday 8 December from 7pm. At Meta House by Monument Books. Travel Writing in SEAsia. With Lonely Planet's Nick Ray and Greg Bloom as well as Tom Vater and Kraig Lieb, who will launch their new book, Cambodia - A Journey Through the Land of the Khmer. There will be a Q&A as well.

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