An article about the magazine, KON: The Cinema of Cambodia, appears on SEVENDAYS (7D) issue 63 published on October 22, 2010. Though it’s a week after the magazine launching, still, I feel happy to see more and more people start to write about it.
Let’s check the original article below:
KON Magazine Cover
As Cambodian film seeks revival, a new generation takes in its varied past. Students from the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) recently released their magazine KON: The Cinema of Cambodia, a collection of 16 articles spanning the 15-year “Golden Age” of the 1960s-70s, the propaganda films of the Khmer Rouge and the decline of Cambodian film, as well as profiles of notable filmmakers and actors.
At an event at Meta House last Friday that included clips from wide swathe of Cambodian films, Hong Channpheaktra, one of the student designers, said that he was inspired by what he learned from past filmmakers. “We need to be creative, our generation,” he said. “We can do that, too. We have to make [films] as great as the past.”
Tilman Baumgärtel, a visiting professor at the RUPP and supervisor for the project, said that he wanted to give students “something to identify with in a positive way – not always on the Khmer Rouge or poverty”.
Hong Channsopheaktra, who has written for the Post’s youth magazine LIFT, said that he was most taken aback by “the techniques of the producers” of the 1960s and 70s. His favourite film of that period, when about 400 films were made and Phnom Penh boasted 30 cinemas, was Thida Sok Pous (Snake Girl). Dy Saveth, who played the starring role, had to wear a wig made of real snakes in the film. “Once, a snake bit me when I pulled its tail,” she said in a profile of her in KON. “I later found its tooth in my face.”
Baumgärtel, a film scholar by training, said the “ingenuity” of filmmakers of that period in making fantasy films – based often on Khmer folk tales and myths – “with quite limited means was impressive to me”. KON includes details of some of the low-cost techniques of director Ly Bun Yim who created an earthquake, a flying pig, a giant face, and other effects.
But even if it’s not the magazine’s focus, it would be difficult to skip over the Khmer Rouge period, and an article in KON discusses the 78 propaganda documentaries made with Chinese support.
Director Yvon Hem, who directed, among others, the first Cambodian film after the Khmer Rouge, Sror Morl Anthaakal (Shadow of Darkness) in 1987, attended KON’s release. He said he was proud that these young people would replace his generation of filmmakers, and urged them to make films about contemporary Cambodia that would make foreign audiences curious about the country. “That’s success in film,” he said. “Put a question in it.”
KON is available at Monument Books for $1.50.
Written by: Thomas Miller
Published on 7DAYS (Issue 63, October 22, 2010), The Phnom Penh Post