Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rithy Panh's dream is realized

Rithy Panh is known internationally for his film-making talents in such features as Rice People and S-21, but in the 90s, he realized that Cambodia's audiovisual heritage was in a critical state. After decades of civil war and strife, the few archives that had been spared seemed to be waiting for time, tropical heat and dust to complete the work of erasing them. The concerns of Panh (pictured on the set of his film S-21) echoed those of the film-maker Ieu Pannakar, who was then responsible for the cinematic division within the Culture and Fine Arts Ministry. The two men dreamt about creating an audiovisual heritage that would play a key role in the expression of a nation’s identity and in the constitution of its heritage.

Now, with technical and financial support from France, the project of collecting the Cambodian audiovisual heritage - in the form of film, photographs, audio tapes and archive material including six Lumiere films dating back to 1899 and shot in Phnom Penh and Angkor - will be realized on 4 December when the Bophana Resource Center will officially open its doors to the public. By choosing the name of Bophana, the Center hopes to bear witness to the message of dignity and courage exemplified by this young woman during her detention in S-21. A brand new website has just been unveiled, here.

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