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Contemporary Cinema of Cambodia: Bophana Center and Independent Filmmaking

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Abstract

Drawing from empirical observations, this study is centered on the present-day art house cinema landscape in Phnom Penh. While Cambodia’s cinematic Golden Age, spanning from Independence to 1975, has been extensively studied, scholarship on current cinema is almost nonexistent. Moreover, Cambodia’s standing in comparison to its Southeast Asian neighbors remains relatively modest.

This research aims to shed light on a Cambodian cinema renaissance through the examination of interrelated developments. First, it focuses on the evolution of the Bophana Audiovisual Center, initiated by Cambodian-French filmmaker Rithy Panh in 2006, from an archival entity to a hub for film education. Notably, Bophana has generated a multitude of socially-conscious videos; those have exerted both direct influence through training and indirect influence through its cinematic models, topics and archival resources, contributing to the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers. The presentation goes on to profile several contemporary “homegrown” cinematographers who have persevered in challenging circumstances to create impactful and artful works, which have received prestigious awards beyond Cambodia’s borders.

The study concludes by raising questions regarding the present state of Cambodian cinema: the constraints posed by short formats, potential governmental backing for art-house films, and the broader challenge of engaging younger audiences with this form of cinematic art.

Bio:

Speaker: Martine Guyot-Bender is a CKS Senior Fellow and professor of contemporary French Literature and Film at Hamilton College in Central New York State. Where she is also an active member of the Cinema and Media Studies program. Her primary focus is on narratology, the study of textual forms. She is the author of two monographs on Patrick Modiano’s novels concerning the second-generation memory of the Nazi Occupation in France. Her recent exploration of Cambodia’s contemporary art cinema stems from a more recent interest on cinematographic language in social film documentaries in France, with an emphasis on documentary producer Iskra-Slon. It is also informed by her earlier work on memory in Modiano’s literary work. 

Moderator: George Chigas is an Associate Teaching Professor Emeritus in Cambodian Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he taught courses in Cambodian literature and cultural history. Prior to coming to UMass Lowell in 2004, he was the Associate Director at the Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University. He earned his doctorate in Southeast Asian Languages and Cultures from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London and his masters in Asian Studies from Cornell University. He is the author of Tum Teav, A Translation and Literary Analysis of a Cambodian Classic. He currently lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the publications and through webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. The designations employed in the publications and through the webinars, and the presentation of material therein, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. as to the matters discussed therein. The responsibility for opinions expressed in the publications and webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers, and the publication does not constitute an endorsement by The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. of the opinions, views or issues discussed therein.

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