Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More Cambodia movie news

I am pleased to report that the number of films involving Cambodia and Khmers is growing at such an incredibly fast rate. Take the new film, Bangkok, for example. The film's director is Colin Drobnis, who tells me; "The movie was shot on location in both Thailand and Cambodia. Most of the movie takes place in Cambodia and was shot primarily in and around Phnom Penh. We also shot in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand, some of which doubled for Bangkok and some we doubled for Cambodia. The movie is not yet distributed, but we hope to get it there soon...check back at our website for more info."

So what's the film about? Well, with an allotment of cash that would get you only a modest new car, the producers of Bangkok may be setting a new trend in filmmaking: the international no budget feature. This buddy/road movie tells the story of an ex-US soldier with an inability to connect with others who embarks on an impulsive journey to Southeast Asia and the region where his MIA father was last seen. Along the way he forms an unlikely emotional bond with two other Americans: a drifting self-fashioned spiritualist, and a chatty, know-it-all vacationing grad student, who join his quest.The back story of how this feature was made is almost as daring as the one portrayed on-screen. By the end of the shoot, the crew of Bangkok - mostly made up of the four producers who would also do the bulk of the acting themselves - would cover just as much ground, physically and emotionally, as the characters they played. “And money was almost the least of our worries...the dollar goes a long way over there. It’s the logistics of producing in a foreign land and the sheer number of exotic locations and people that proved to be the real challenge”, says Drobnis. “Thailand was a relative breeze compared to Cambodia where tourism, much less film production, is tricky at best.” Yet despite that county’s turbulent recent history Drobnis insists, “they’re still the nicest people in the world.” The road was long for the film’s tiny cast and crew who figure they covered at least ten thousand miles in their pursuit of some seventy locations, and not without peril. Producer/actor, Daniel Miller recalls: “I was mainly worried about some of the crew riding motorcycles in a country where hospitals still have dirt floors...I insisted we get insurance that provided for an airlift to Bangkok where we stood a fighting chance”. But despite his concern, everyone made it home safely with no more than the usual travel-related intestinal issues to claim as health setbacks.

I also spoke to Rodacker OP Muong, the founder of Quest Beyond Films, who told me; "We have a slate of several films planned for 2007 and 2008. Some of them are meant exclusively for the Khmer market and others we plan on taking to an international audience. One of our main goals is to raise awareness of Cambodia on a global stage. The first of the films will be in the tried and true horror genre with an intent to distribute worldwide, while some of the subsequent pictures will focus on more Cambodia-specific issues such as sex tourism. The project immediately following the horror film is a Khmer-language action movie starring local kick boxing hero A. Putong - so as you can see, we're going to be hitting a lot of different genres with our company. We're also looking for partners and investors at the moment or other filmmakers who would like to set their productions in Cambodia." Three film titles they currently have in production are Tears, Downfall and The Last Minute. You can find out more about Quest Beyond Films at their website.

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