Thursday, December 21, 2006

Heritage Watch calendar & more

The folks at Heritage Watch, based in Phnom Penh, know a good lensman when they see one. How's that...'cause they've employed the services of a pal of mine, Garrie Maguire from Australia, as one of the two photographers for their brand new 2007 calendar. It'll showcase the Angkorean temples through beautiful black and white photographs, taken by Garrie and German photographer Doris Boettcher. Both have photographed extensively in Southeast Asia, and have exhibited their work both in Cambodia and overseas. I've previously highlighted the important role that Heritage Watch are playing in doing their utmost to save Cambodia’s cultural legacy and other plans in the pipeline include the following; at the ancient temple complex of Koh Ker, they aim to start an innovative project combining preservation with sustainable tourism development. Also, HW will further its educational efforts with If The Stones Could Speak, a storybook promoting heritage preservation that will be a key part of a planned youth education program. You can read more about their efforts here. And you can take a look at Garrie's photography here, where I found this photo taken in the FCC a few years ago, of Garrie (left) and yours truly, regaling each other with our temple adventures!
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A 35-minute documentary film dealing with the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime has been shown in Phnom Penh and is due to go on tour around the country early next year. The film, Wanting To See The Truth ('Chang Kheun Pit' in Khmer) includes interviews with Cambodians who describe the forced labour, starvation and mass killings under Pol Pot's rule. But it also shows footage of young Cambodians who do not believe stories of the atrocities of the late 1970s.The period is not taught in schools, and the film's producer, Tara Urs, plans to screen it around the country to boost awareness particularly amongst the younger population. Throughout the film older Cambodians describe the horrors of life under the Khmer Rouge, when up to two million died because of the regime's brutality. The camera then pans to giggling teenagers who declare that they do not believe a word of what their relatives have just said. Wanting To See The Truth was produced by the Open Society Justice Initiative in collaboration with award-winning filmmakers Rob Fruchtman and Lex Fletcher, and the Khmer Institute for Democracy. The film is intended for a Cambodian audience as an outreach tool.
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A new book just published, Building Cambodia - New Khmer Architecture 1953-1970 by Helen Grant Ross and Darryl Collins, describes the flowering of Khmer architectural genius - namely, the New Khmer Architecture that emerged in Phnom Penh amid the heady national pride that followed Cambodia's independence from France in 1953. The book documents the tragically short-lived style that resulted in a spate of striking buildings until its demise amid civil war and genocide not two decades later. Taking seven years of research to complete, and packed with rare photographs and illustrations, the 334-page hardback pays tribute to this remarkable cultural interlude and focuses on the work of people like Vann Molyvann who designed such significant landmarks at the Independence Monument, the Council of Ministers and the Chakdomukh theatre, amongst many others. You can see some of his work here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Andy

Yes, at last, Darryl Collins and my book is on the bookshelf. You can find it at Carnets d'Asie, Monument Books being too greedy about their cut in the sales price.
we hope, now the book is finalized, that misconceptions about colonial and Cambodian modern architecture will be dissipated. For example Phnom Penh railway station, is an interesting landmark, but French colonial from the 1930s. RUPP 'student shelter' as you call it was designed by French architects, not Vann Molyvann; the same ones who designed the Independence Hotel in Sihanoukville. The 'old stadium' was also French colonial, with an upgrade by Lu Ban Hap in the 60s. Vann Molyvann was indubitably the most talented of this effervescent architectural experiment, but by no means alone - that's what makes it so interesting. Even Sihanouk, himself, was contributing to the interior designs of some of the buildings. I hope our book will restore this important positive part of constructive history to Cambodia's collective memory.

Helen Grant Ross