CamboFest hopes to inspire Cambodian filmmakers
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 25 Dec 2008 07:42:51 -0800 (PST)
CamboFest hopes to inspire Cambodian filmmakers
Written by Cornelius Rahn
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Film festival brings independent international and Cambodian movie
makers to Siem Reap in the hope of one day creating a viable film
IN a country where the film industry used to be embodied in the person
of the King, the idea of rebuilding the culture of cinema from the
bottom up may seem just a bit out of place. But that is exactly what
CamboFest organiser Jason Rosette is trying to pull off.
The second CamboFest festival, which Rosette calls "definitely a grass-
roots, low-budget affair", will offer lovers of independent film a
selection of more than 60 films from around the world.
In proper indie fashion, admission to the event - to be held in Siem
Reap this weekend - will be free in order to encourage Cambodian
Trailers and short film clips from the festival will also be broadcast
on CamboTube, a "YouTube-style" website set up by Rosette's media
production group Camerado.
Promoting free initiative
Rosette got the idea to start a private-sector movie festival with a
global outlook in 2006 during a globalisation course at the Royal
University of Phnom Penh.
I hope people get a kick out of the festival and ...emerging cambodian
filmmakers check it out.
"At that time, there was no other actual movie festival here," he
said. "You had a lot of festivals that were actually just extensions
of donor or organisational programs."
Rosette said he chose Cambodia to set up the festival because the
government's restrictions on media were not as strict as in other
countries in the region.
In Vietnam, it would be difficult to have DVDs mailed without
interference from the government, Rosette said. Thailand was under
military rule at the time, so Cambodia promised to be the friendliest
environment for a nascent independent film festival.
With a budget of under US$10,000, CamboFest relies on a loose network
For instance, the film award jury consists of a varied group - "from
the BBC, Digipost, Singapore, Malaysia and a bunch of Khmer guys".
"Many of my Khmer assistants [initially] did not know what a movie
festival was," he said. "Basically, I told them: ‘It's like a party
with movies, and you show different movies from around the world'."
But Rosette said it is difficult for Camerado, which is a private
business, to compete with non-profit organisations that receive
funding from outside and have "a thousand times our budget". Despite
this disadvantage, he said he is convinced that more private
initiative and less patronage is the way forward in Cambodia.
Rosette, who is also a filmmaker, said he wants to help create a
viable movie industry in Cambodia by encouraging local talent.
"Emerging filmmakers may look and say: ‘Wow, look at what filmmakers
in Cuba or in Brazil are doing!' Maybe that will expand their
technical ability or give them different ideas."
But attracting Cambodian talent is not easy, he admitted. Even though
CamboFest aims to be an international festival, Cambodia's five
contributions are less than Rosette said he was hoping for.
"It's not like you can just hang up a sign [asking for film
contributions] in a film society like you would in the West," he said.
Schools and NGOs training young filmmakers tend to "capture" their
students and discourage them from participating in events organised by
other groups, Rosette added.
Screening rights row
The formality of the submission process is another obstacle, as
Rosette emphasised the need for filmmakers to secure 100 percent of
the films' screening rights. Requesting written statements that they
hold the copyright to their work may discourage local filmmakers.
"It's an alien concept to them - it scares them away," Rosette said.
But securing public performance rights is necessary "to get
distributors licensing to [Cambodia]," he said. "[The movie industry]
does not really need Cambodia. If they see Cambodia is not diligent
about [screening rights], they won't license, they won't be in our
He estimated that even with a conscientious screening rights policy
and a more systematic outreach, it could take five to 10 years to
fully establish the festival. "Maybe it turns out that the private
sector grass-roots model cannot survive the competition from nonprofit
Still, Rosette has high hopes for the lo-fi concept behind CamboFest.
"Many festivals, like South-by-Southwest or Sundance, they started
very indie," he said. "Most importantly, it should be fun. I hope
people get a kick out of the festival, and I hope a lot of emerging
Cambodian filmmakers check it out. " CamboFest will be held from
Friday to Monday.
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