An ar­ray of award-winning short films has made Kavich Neang one of Cam­bo­dia’s most prom­i­nent young film­mak­ers. He spoke to South­east Asia Globe about the King­dom’s film in­dus­try and work­ing on his first fea­ture, a story about Phnom Penh’s re­cently de­mo­lis

Southeast Asia Globe - - Contents - Madeleine Keck

Your monthly guide to cul­ture

Can you tell us about the mo­ti­va­tion for mak­ing White Build­ing?

My par­ents moved into the White Build­ing right af­ter the Kh­mer Rouge and it was such a unique and spe­cial place full of artists and mu­si­cians. There was con­stantly a party feel with peo­ple singing and dancing. When I heard that it was go­ing to be de­mol­ished, I felt it was re­ally im­por­tant for me to cap­ture that at­mos­phere and doc­u­ment what life was like. So I'm in the process of work­ing on that right now.

Your short film Good­bye Phnom Penh was se­lected to be part of the 10th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the Asian Film Ar­chive. Tell us about the film and your in­spi­ra­tion…

The topic for the film­mak­ers was ‘frag­ment', which for me rep­re­sented peo­ple be­ing to­gether and apart. The film is a love story about a Kh­mer guy and a French-Cam­bo­dian woman: it's about the time they spend to­gether be­fore she goes back to France.

Good­bye Phnom Penh took last year’s top prize at the Chak­to­muk Short Film Fes­ti­val in Phnom Penh. How does it feel get­ting lo­cal ac­knowl­edg­ment?

A few of my smaller short films have won prizes out­side Cam­bo­dia, but for me winning a prize in Cam­bo­dia is re­ally spe­cial. You don't cre­ate art for prizes, you do it be­cause it's your pas­sion, but you do want peo­ple to like it. Hav­ing Cam­bo­di­ans en­joy my pas­sion be­comes more and more en­cour­ag­ing and ful­fill­ing.

What are the main chal­lenges to work­ing in Cam­bo­dia’s film in­dus­try?

A lot of Cam­bo­dian film­mak­ers strug­gle to find the money needed to fund their films. If you don't have the money, I think it's very chal­leng­ing. You need a lot of en­cour­age­ment from the gov­ern­ment if you want to make a film but don't have any money. Cen­sor­ship can also be quite a dif­fi­cult chal­lenge to over­come. Some­times, when the topic is re­lated to so­cio-po­lit­i­cal is­sues, you need to be creative about how you ap­proach it.

How do you see the lo­cal film­mak­ing scene de­vel­op­ing in the years to come?

I am very pos­i­tive that new peo­ple are go­ing to come in and make short films and that the in­dus­try will grow over the next ten years. While film­mak­ing is a lot of work, young Cam­bo­dian peo­ple have the de­sire to ex­press their own voice and their own sto­ries. My gen­er­a­tion is then go­ing to move onto fea­ture films – it's go­ing to be a grow­ing cy­cle. –

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