Sunday, July 29, 2007

Snippets of Cambodia news...

Cambodian Bokator on History Channel
Adventure writer Antonio (The Monk from Brooklyn ) Graceffo is working as a martial arts consultant for the History Channel’s new martial arts TV series, “Human Weapon.” The show features two American MMA fighters who travel around Asia , studying different martial arts. Each episode closes with the Americans fighting a local master or champion. Graceffo had this to say about being selected to work on the show. “When they called me and told me about the show, I laughed. I said, that just sounds like my real life.” Graceffo, a former investment banker, left the financial world after the September 11 terrorist attacks. For the last six years he has been traveling around Asia , studying martial arts, fighting, and writing books and magazine articles. “Basically, my role in the show, in addition to appearing on camera a bit, was to seek out, train with, and spar as many of the masters as I could to see which ones would be good for the show. It’s been grueling, but fun, rolling, wrestling, and kick boxing with some excellent martial artists.” In addition to “Human Weapon,” Graceffo will appear on another History Channel show, called “Digging for the Truth,” in an episode featuring Angkor Wat, which airs in September. “The connection between Cambodian Martial Art, Bokator, and Angkor Wat is a deep spiritual relationship which the Khmer people are very proud of. They asked me to come on the show and demonstrate Bokator and explain some of the history.” Checkout Antonio’s website here.

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This month has seen the release of the third issue of TouchStone magazine, a quarterly publication (100,000 copies annually) from NGO, HeritageWatch that is distributed in Cambodia and abroad. This month's issue features stories on excavations in Cambodia, scientfic research, Cambodian NGOs and the photography of Ian Taylor who lived in Cambodia for many years. Touchstone is filled with interesting articles about Cambodia, as well as current information on the many archaeological, scientific, and cultural projects being undertaken in the Kingdom. Each issue also features a Heritage Friendly business, highlights a photographer working in the country, and provides guidelines for responsible tourism. In HeritageWatch's regular newsletter that was issued this week, they included the following:
Featured Destination: Banteay Chhmar
Fast Facts: Entrance Fee: $5. Location: Banteay Meanchey Province, Cambodia.Getting There: 2 hours by car from Sisophon. Overview:
As Andy Brouwer wrote recently in the last edition of TouchStone Magazine; Massive face-towers and intricate carvings shrouded in mist and jungle foliage conjures up all the romanticism of a lost Khmer city. One such place where this is a reality is Banteay Chhmar in the northwestern corner of Cambodia, close to the border with near neighbour Thailand. Never fully restored or analysed and inaccessible for decades due to Khmer Rouge activity in the area, Banteay Chhmar was constructed late in the 12th century. The Global Heritage Fund is currently working on an assessment of the temple with an eye to restoring it partially. The confusing jumble of ruins comprising the temple's central complex gives the visitor no obvious route or path to follow and in parts the only way to explore is by scrambling over gallery roofs and the large piles of collapsed stones. Large towers with massive faces follow your every move and close by, a building known as the 'Hall of Dancers' houses fine lintels showing human, bird and animal figures, Vishnu and Brahma in excellent condition. Few of the visitors to Banteay Chhmar are aware of the existence of an additional 8 smaller satellite temples all within 500 metres of the main complex. Four of these contain face towers though most are surrounded by dense vegetation and can be difficult to visit. However for the Indiana Jones’ amongst us, they can be a worthwhile challenge. Another large temple called Banteay Top (‘Army Citadel’) lies 14 kilometres southeast of its sister complex.
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For news of the Angkor Photo Festival, to be held at the end of November, there's lots more details on their website here. They also have a Flickr page for photos here. The third Angkor Photography Festival will be held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, from November 18 to 28, 2007.
The festival brings together famous and passionate photographers of diverse nationalities and cultures in the spirit of creativity and sharing. It showcases print exhibitions and outdoor projections by renowned artists and photo-journalists, but differentiates itself from other photographic events with its strong educational goals. By offering free workshops for young Asian photographers and developing outreach projects for disenfranchised Cambodian youth, participants contribute their art and their time, demonstrating that photography can change lives.
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On 15 June, I blogged a forthcoming performance by Cambodian Muslim American artist Anida Yoeu Ali/Esguerra. Here's a review of the performance by Mark DeFrancis.
Living Memory/Living Absence
Anida Yoeu Ali's movement and media collage entitled Living Memory/Living Absence is a bold and visceral work about the author's quest to reconnect with her fractured Cambodian roots while engaging the horrid legacy of the Khmer Rouge upon her people. Her explorations take the audience through a twisted series of emotions in search of the Apsara, or "heavenly nymphs," which exist as a force within all people.The piece is free in form and Ali's movements are well suited to each scene of the work. She evokes delicacy, grace, power, and even horror with ease. In the standout scene of this show, she creates a terrifying image of the suffering and anger of human atrocity by contorting her physique into twisted forms. Her talent aids in her storytelling as she can make concepts like loss, despair, and loneliness appear clearly with just her physicality. Her presence as a speaker is lacking though. The poetry she recites is entirely unnecessary at times and begs the question as to why she would distract from such engrossing movement work.She is however upstaged at many moments by some of the finest light and video design I have ever seen in any theatrical production. Video artist Masahiro Sugano and light designers Yasmeen Shorish and Giau Troung put together a series of images, which are guaranteed to never leave my mind. The video and animation act in concert with Ali's choices and often evoke strong kinesthetic reactions in the audience. A pumping heart made from barbed wire will remain my favorite image of this performance.This piece is unfortunately plagued by several false endings, which occur at the end of powerful scenes in the first half of the work. Somehow, at about 45 minutes, the show is simply too long and taxes the audience with its relentlessly slow pace. The best moments are in the early going and rob the work of any climax or cathartic finale. Still, there is so much power and passion in Anida Yoeu Ali's performance and production that some simple rearranging would make this show a must-see event.

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