Mariam Arthur
(mariam@filmcambodia.org)
This is an exciting time in the development of the Cambodian film industry. Once a thriving art, the political regime of the late 1970's systematically dismantled all evidence of theatrical filmmaking - from production to exhibition. It has only been the past five to ten years that has seen an emergence of Khmers making and screening their own films and international filmmakers using Cambodia as a location.

The current state of the Cambodian film industry is severely lacking. Production consists primarily of karaoke videos and documentaries, with a few Khmer, French and Chinese features being made. Only three “Hollywood” features can be credited with Cambodian production: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, City of Ghosts and Two Brothers. The film Beyond Borders was shot in Thailand. There is some broadcasting production for television, with a high concentration of “variety shows,” “adventure,” “environmental” and “social” themes.

The rights for theatrical distribution are rarely sold due to rampant piracy. Pirated DVD's of mainstream feature films are available in the markets for $1 or $2 USD shortly after release. There are only 2 Khmer cinema theatres in Phnom Penh (5 cinemas recently closed in 2007 and early 2008). These theatres deal with issues regarding high fees charged to filmmakers for screening, as well as admission fees low enough to attract patrons, but high enough to make a profit. Therefore, very few Cambodian citizens attend movie theatres due to lack of content. The audience is largely comprised of young adults, who prefer “ghost” movies geared for females to hold onto their male dates. Other genres include love stories and comedies. International movies are screened at cultural centres and cafes, but audiences are mainly comprised of Westerners.

Khmer films are distributed on DVD through a special network to countries with Cambodian communities. These films are purchased primarily because of the language and to see the country. The stories are poorly constructed and production values are low. They are not viable for any other markets. Screenwriting and production techniques must be taught for immerging Khmer filmmakers to be successful.
Film production by international filmmakers boosts the local economy and provides on-the-job training for both crew and talent. However, filmmakers are reluctant to shoot in Cambodia due to perceived threats and real issues such as infrastructure, equipment rental and qualified production crew.
 
Nico Mesterharm (Meta House) and Lach Chantha (Reuters) in Anloung Khrnang
Ouern Sovann at a shooting for the Department of Media and Communication in Anlong Veng
Hongkong filmmaker produces Cambodian feature films for a budget of 500 USD