Cambodian Films at the Berlinale
This video serves as a reminder of the stubborn materiality of film, actual film, not film-as-digital-file. It shows Cambodian master director Ly Bun Yim trying to spool the first reel of the Cambodian print of his masterwork Puthisen Neang Kongre (12 Sisters), that he used to show over and over around 2000 in Phnom Penh after he returned from exile in France. The rest of the film became victim of a flood, and now the only celluloid relic of his film in Cambodia was to be shown in the French Cultural Center, where this was filmed.
An apparently much better print will be shown at the Berlin Film Festival this week. On occasion of the screening of Davy Chou’s excellent documentary Golden Slumbers on the Golden Age of Khmer Cinema, the Berlinale has put together a mini-retrospective of films from this fascinating period. None of these films, which are some of the very few films from Cambodia from the 1960s that survived on film in bearable quality, have ever been shown in Europe, or at a film festival. I wrote essays on 12 Sisters, Peov Chouk Sor and Pous Keng Kong for the festival catalog.
For more on thi period, check Kon. The Cinema of the Philippines, a magazine that I published with my students last year.