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CamboFest, Cambodia Film Festival 4.

0 (4th Edition)
Post Festival Report

INTRODUCTION

CamboFest, Cambodia Film Festival (www.cambofest.com) is an


international film festival in Cambodia established in 2550/2007 by
Camerado (SE Asia).

CamboFest is Cambodia's first internationally recognized recurring film


festival, and is one of the only recurring international movie events in
Cambodia since the end of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The event is funded through a variety of private and public sector sources,
with fundraising utilizing a range of approaches, including: grass-roots
fundraising, crowdsourcing, institutional level grant applications, and various
forms of internal revenue generation.

CamboFest showcases international and local film and video makers in order
to help revive a bona fide cinema industry and movie culture in Cambodia,
while attempting to maintain an intrinsically entertaining event and media
platform that is capable of attracting local and international audiences.

The festival also serves to promote awareness of IP (Intellectual Property)


practices in the Cambodian media and motion picture sector by securing
public performance permissions for every movie screened from copyright
holders. Permissions specify the Cambodian territory, and not any 3rd party
sub distributor or territory as a ‘grey area’ workaround, for all screening
purposes. The goal is to establish Cambodia as a viable and recognized
exhibition location internationally.

This level of industry standard diligence, which is normal in developed


nations, but unusual in Cambodia, has in the past elicited some backlash
from some Cambodia-based businesses founded upon the organized,
unlicensed exhibition of movie content as a core component of their
operations.

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Unlike other film festival efforts in Cambodia, CamboFest is an independent,
largely non-subsidized event and operates apart from any local or
international government or non-governmental agency. The event is
therefore largely free from donor agendas or interests, hence its
independent or ‘indie’ sensibility.

The festival is designed primarily for entertainment and edutainment (E-E)


purposes, with a significant amount of educational, prosocial and
development oriented content programmed alongside
entertainment-oriented international and local movies.

Besides a range of social issue and educational videos, participating films at


CamboFest typically include: animation, drama, action, sci-fi, horror,
creative documentaries, a local Cambodian and Southeast Asian showcase,
amongst other genres.

Programming of CamboFest is eclectic and is designed to develop a local


filmmaking sensibility that may reasonably have high likelihood of evolving
into sustainable (non-subsidized) Cambodian film industry in the long term,
with key genres established to be more commercially saleable than others.

By way of example: Western/European art-house style cinema, though valid


forms in their home countries, do not observably engage popular local
audiences in a significant way in the Cambodian context and are therefore
not (currently) featured as prominently as some genre oriented titles.

In any case, to date, over 250 international filmmakers have participated in


CamboFest.

BACKGROUND

In its first two years, from 2007 through 2008, CamboFest was held at
various art spaces and open air venues in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap,
Cambodia. A dedicated, 'Youtube'-style online video portal was also utilized
for the 2007 and 2008 editions as a supplemental online component.

This portal, called CamboTube, featured its own dedicated FFMPEG


conversion engines on its own servers, unlike other online channels that
utilize Youtube or other dependent video sharing devices as a host.

This online component was abandoned later, however, due to bandwidth and
user access (Digital Divide) limitations although some important design

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elements from CamboTube have been incorporated into a design for a new
prosocial auto-replicating hardware platform in development by Camerado
SE Asia, called PILGRIM.

CamboFest’s 3rd Edition

The historically significant third (2009) edition of CamboFest took place in


the vintage Cambodian 'Royal' cinema hall, in Kampot, Cambodia, a venue
which had been unused since 1989.

Only a handful of older local Cambodians remembered of the 'Royal', which


had lain unused since 1989 when it was shut to public screenings as the
sustainability of the business became non-viable. This was in large part,
according to the then and current owner, due to the growing affordability of
the VCR in post conflict Cambodia which allowed for private viewing of titles
in the perceived safety and comfort of home.

Approvals for the 3rd edition of CamboFest were provided through the
authority of the Kampot Governor’s office, bypassing the need to receive
centralized Phnom Penh Ministry approval, so long as the event were held in
the jurisdiction of Kampot province.

Even so, with this component of Cambodia’s decentralization and


deconcentration reform working well on paper, there was some actual
reluctance from the relevant Cambodian government Ministry to relinquish
its authority to the provincial level. The approvals were finally gained, with
all relevant stamped paperwork available in an archived state.

Additional challenges emerged when foreigners residing in Cambodia,


including those affiliated with at least one non-diligent (aka, “pirate”) cinema
venue in Phnom Penh, reacted negatively to CamboFest’s pro-filmmaker
activities in the lead up to its 3rd edition at the ‘Royal’.

The foreign non-Cambodians subsequently attempted to thwart the 3rd


edition festival, Cambodia’s only film festival at the time, with a series of
hoax classified ads placed in the local press, and through phony press
releases sent locally and abroad*. (*for coverage of these incidents, see
http://cameradomoviesandmedia.blogspot.com/2010/01/cambofest-story-part-1.html)

Despite the interference by foreign elements and the reluctance of the


Cambodian centralized government to allow decentralized provincial level
approvals, the 3rd (2009) historically significant 'Royal' edition of CamboFest

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was held as planned, from December 4–6, 2009.

A number of international filmmakers and others found the production


challenges experienced by the event to be notable, insofar as they
highlighted some of the obstacles that a pioneering cinema effort like
CamboFest may face:

"His Majesty the King-Father asked me to thank you on His behalf.


He read with great interest your report about your activities in
reviving the cinema industry in Cambodia."

- Cabinet assistant of H.M. The King-Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia

Lead up to the 4th EDITION

Following the challenges experienced in the Cambodian media environment


during the process of producing the event’s 3rd edition, the festival director
made a decision to invite the participation of a Cambodian youth group for
the planned 4th edition, in order to better ensure for the long term viability
of the festival.

This decision was based on an estimation at the time, that the Cambodian
media sector could still require 10-20 years to evolve to a point where (like
neighboring Thailand) film festival events and related forms of public media
expression could be produced with a normal, reliable, bankable, streamlined
process typical of developed media environments.

Furthermore, it was estimated that the IP media sector in Cambodia may


require a similar period of time to develop to a point where backlash or
interference from local businesses and persons involved in organized
unlicensed exploitation of motion picture titles would be minimized or
absent.

In short, it was assumed that a youth group would have the time to ‘grow
into’ a normal film culture. Problematic variables in the media sector and
Cambodian government processes would (hopefully) pass away over the
years, and the CamboFest film festival could serve as a point of departure or
training ground for interested future festival staff and media professionals.

Additionally, CamboFest’s director (Jason Rosette) a Caucasian foreign


filmmaker and media producer (though living in Cambodia fulltime, by
choice, as an unsubsidized freelancer for over half a decade), considered the
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reality and perception of himself as a ‘colonial white face’ atop a
Cambodian-based collective to be unappealing and inconsistent with core
founding notions of CamboFest as a multicultural, pluralistic, local effort.

The participation of a local youth group, in this case the Kampot based Youth
Association for Human Resource Development (YAHRD), was deemed to be a
crucial step to the long term viability of the CamboFest effort, in whatever
form it would assume in the future.

YAHRD youth group members hand out flyers before the start of CamboFest 4 screenings

The Fourth Edition of CAMBOFEST: March 1-9, 2011

Pre-production of CamboFest’s 4th edition took place concurrently to the


production of another regional film festival, also established by CamboFest’s
founder, the Bangkok IndieFest (www.bangkokfest.com) in neighboring
Thailand*. (*for a comparison both festivals relevant to their respective environments,
http://cambofest.blogspot.com/2011/12/brief-comparison-of-cambofest-cambodia.html)

In order to optimize the timing and synergy of both events, the 4th edition of
CamboFest was shifted back several months from its annual recurrent
timeline in order to exploit any publicity components generated during the
Bangkok IndieFest.

5 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com


Therefore, the 4th edition of the CamboFest, Cambodia Film Festival was
slated to take place in March 2011, some 15 months after the previous
edition of December 2009, ‘rebooting’ towards a newly devised recurring
schedule.

Cold Feet

Fundraising for the 4th edition of the CamboFest carried on as per previous
editions, with vigorous outreach commencing to both individual and
institutional level supporters through direct outreach, mailing lists,
crowdfunding, and other means.

However, following the challenges from foreign interference experienced at


the previous, 3rd edition of CamboFest, institutional and foundational level
sponsors had ‘cold feet’, and were observably reluctant to support the 4th
edition of the festival - even with taxpayer funds at their disposal specifically
earmarked for use in challenged developing environments like Cambodia.

For example, one local embassy which had supported CamboFest in previous
editions, uncharacteristically balked at offering any support for the 4th
edition. Furthermore, the embassy would not allow the loan of either of its
two large venue projectors (as it had at the previous edition) for the youth
group’s training.

Additionally, a degree of misinformation presented by foreign residents in


Cambodia, including the representative of one foreign government-funded
media organization, the Cambodia Film Commission (see below), caused
some potential contributors to question CamboFest’s legitimacy in the eyes
of the Cambodian government, further affecting the availability of funding.

Therefore, one recommendation would be for potential future funders to


seek only an authorized, Cambodian government representative’s
statement regarding any effort’s ability and authorization to operate in the
Cambodian environment. Ideally, this confirmation should come from the
highest Ministry level or above.

In any case, despite the reluctance of institutional supporters during the


CamboFest’s 4th edition’s fundraising efforts, a host of worldwide individual
contributors stepped in to fill the gap instead.
These individual supporters were instrumental to the 4th edition’s production
and success.

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A Phnom Penh based photographer, James Mizurski, for example provided
funds for the purchase of a 3D enabled projector to be provided to the
Cambodian YAHRD youth group for use during the event and their ongoing,
year-round practice.

Germany-based contributor Rolando Dubioso, a longtime contributor to


Camerado projects, made one of several significant gifts for operational
funding.

Additional contributions were made by a variety of worldwide film and media


professionals, many who had never been to Cambodia, but who supported
the mission and approach of the CamboFest effort. (A list of all contributors here
:http://cameradosocialissue.blogspot.com/2010/11/make-contribution-to-cambofest-cambo
dia.html

Remaining core funds for the 4th edition of CamboFest would be derived from
residual international filmmaker entry fees, with the shortfall being covered
by volunteerism on all sides, a portion of funds provided out of pocket by the
festival director himself, and a further reduction in costs achieved by
replacing the traditional CamboFest ‘Grabay Meas’ trophy with a less costly
awards certificate until revenue allowed its return.

Additional in-kind supporters stepped forward: the Cambodia Daily


newspaper, under the generous contribution of founder and publisher
Bernard Krishner, contributed pro-bono advertising to the CamboFest 4th
edition on a scale which would not have been affordable on the effort’s
grass-roots budget.

Technicolor (www.technicolor.com) in Bangkok provided an in-kind


facilities package to participating Cambodian CamboFest filmmakers,
showing a significant level of international support to its ASEAN neighbor.
Finally, local foreign and Cambodian fans in Kampot promised their support
in the form of food, accommodation and other sustenance for the festival
staff, as they had in the 3rd edition.

In summary: thanks to individual worldwide contributors, the 4th edition of


CamboFest took place as planned.

The dates of the 4th edition of CamboFest were set a year in advance, with
dates set to run from March 1-9, 2011. The festival would again take place
in Kampot, Cambodia, following the invitation of the Kampot governor’s
office following the conclusion of the 3rd edition.

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The festival was slated again to take place at the ‘Royal’ cinema house, as
per the 3rd edition, with the understanding that workflows with the local,
decentralized approvals process would be streamlined since the previous
event.

Additionally, the dates for the 4th edition of CamboFest were chosen with
International Women’s Day (March 8) in mind to form an armature for
appropriately themed films to take place throughout the festival, with the 8th
being a highlight day for films by women filmmakers.

For the 4th edition, the festival run was extended from 3 days to 9 days, with
a repeat of programs as needed, in order to provide a more difficult target
for possible interference of the kind sustained during the 3rd edition; whether
or not this would occur again was unknown. The extra days would allow
more recovery time from any misinformation placed in the local press while
providing a contingency for any last minute, unexpected interventions from
the Cambodian government.

Ultimately, no notable interference from foreigners residing in Cambodia


occurred during the lead up to the 4th edition of CamboFest.

However, last minute methodological challenges occurred in the Cambodian


government’s permissions process, in an arbitrary departure from the
previously established decentralized approvals process.

The Cambodian government ministry in charge of film festival cultural


events, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (MOCFA) intervened five days
prior to the event with a request to inspect and review all content to be
presented at CamboFest, overriding the Kampot governor’s authority to
approve the event independently.

This occurred despite the fact that a copy of all 50+ films had already long
been provided to the Kampot governor’s office for review and observation on
DVD.

Calls from CamboFest staff, the YAHRD youth group, and the CamboFest
director to Som Sokum, Cambodia's Secretary of State in Charge of Cinema
in the Culture and Fine Arts Ministry, had no effect on restoring the process
to the previously implemented decentralized system.

The Secretary – who had on May 19, 2010 signed a Film Cooperation
agreement with the French CNC (Centre National de la Cinématographie) –

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stated he was unable to agree to the Kampot governor’s authorization to
approve the event in the normal decentralized fashion, as had been done in
the previous edition.

This new requirement by the MOCFA required an additional last minute visit
by CamboFest staff and petitions to the department of Cinema
representative in Phnom Penh.

After some time in last minute discussion, a Cambodian government


representative at the Department of Cinema indicated that he would not
impede CamboFest’s 4th edition event if it did not collect revenue, as it was
designated primarily for the training of the benefit and training of the YAHRD
Youth Group in Kampot in any case.

Following the meeting with the representative of the Department of Cinema


in Phnom Penh, the organizers of CamboFest returned to Kampot and
continued to train and tech the YAHRD youth group in time for the 4th edition
of the festival.

Since revenues could now no longer be collected if the festival were to


proceed, the event could now no longer afford to rent the vintage ‘Royal’
movie hall: that venue had to be abandoned in favor of an immediate,
pro-bono substitute.

With only one day to locate a replacement venue, CamboFest staff and
members of the YAHRD youth group scoured Kampot on foot for a workable
festival location that would enable the youth group to undertake its film
festival training.

Responding to the needs of the event, the Cambodian owned and operated
Little Garden Guesthouse in Kampot was the first to offer its outdoor open
air restaurant and lounge as a replacement screening venue.

An unanticipated benefit to this change was that its open air structure on the
street level near the Kampot riverside allowed for more ambient and
unplanned foot traffic than might otherwise be gained.

For example, after the CamboFest was underway, a number of disabled and
wheelchair bound audience members were able to view films simply by
rolling up to the curb and watching with everyone else – something that
would not be possible with a less accessible venue.

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One Cambodian former soldier and mine victim happened upon an evening
screening of a landmine awareness documentary at the event, and was
greatly moved by what he saw and experienced, stating that he learned
(through the film) that there were others like him, and that resources &
organizations existed to assist him.

With regard to ‘cultural and moral’ aspects of the filmed content, requiring
approval and observation by the Cambodian government, CamboFest
staffers referred to local Cambodian sensibilities by pre-screening movies to
youth group members and others to eliminate any potential problems with
content during public exhibition at the festival event.

CamboFest's fourth edition therefore, took place largely as planned, on


March 2-6, 2011. As mentioned, dates were publicly listed as March 1-9; the
extra days were designed as ‘padding’ to render any potential targeted
pranks and last minute Cambodian government variances less problematic
for the event.

This had fortuitously been the case, since one festival day had been
rescheduled due to the last minute intervention by the MOCFA.

Youth group members and CamboFest’s founder J Rosette with guests at the 4th edition

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Achievements and Accomplishments at
CamboFest’s 4th Edition

After all the earlier challenges, there was minimal interference with the
CamboFest event from any source after it was actually up and running.

The YAHRD youth group quickly learned to set up and operate all screening
equipment, and by the final day were autonomously running the entire
event: greeting guests, setting up hardware, changing discs, announcing the
program, distributing flyers, and more.

Despite the unique 4th edition challenges, the significant local participation
and training of the Cambodian youth group - a crucial link to the formation
of a local film culture in Cambodia – took place as planned.

“Cambofest was a first experience for our youth. It showed them


many sides of movie shows not just projecting. Because experience
was hands-on, it gave them many skills. How to talk to customers,
setup screen, and use DVD player and speakers. It also challenge
them to think quickly. They tell me they have confidence now
because of Cambofest. Since Cambofest, I see this is true. We look
forward to staying involved in Cambofest.”---Keut Mattrohet, Youth
Group Representative & Cambofest volunteer

“I like Cambofest and want it to come back. I only work one night
because I busy, but learn about movies and how to set up machine.
Movies show me about the world and many different people. I like
that. My favourite movies about Khmer Rouge and landmine. I want
Cambofest to come back so I talk to film people and learn about
making movies.”---El Son, Youth Group member & volunteer

“I enjoy Cambofest. Never before I have chance to be so brave.


Cambofest make me brave talking to customers, selling T-shirts. I
learn about equipment and now can setup and show movie show.
Cambofest make me interested in movies and how they are made. I
want to know more about movies like acting, writing, scenery and
camera. I like movies about Cambodia and Khmer people best.
Cambofest very good for youth group and Kampot.”---Saffiy Man,
Youth Group member & Cambofest volunteer

The youth group, many of whom had never even operated AV gear before,
set up and operated all equipment, changed screeners, greeted and
informed guests, conducted outreach and publicity, and by the final day
were essentially running the entire CamboFest 4th edition event.

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The festival, along with the youth group training effort, was undertaken
without any donor or agency mandate, and without any institutional
donor support beyond individual contributions, and with a bare minimum
amount of funding.

CamboFest’s director would encourage funders and donors operating in the


Cambodian environment to reflect upon, and adjust if necessary, their
funding priorities and workflows as needed to support worthwhile efforts like
CamboFest in atypical markets in the future.

In another notable development, long-time CamboFest staffer and


co-organizer, Cambodian national Phun Sokunthearith, was invited to
participate in the prestigious DW-Akademie film festival training program
at the 2011 Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival) in Germany.

Rith (aka ‘Mr. Tol’) returned to Cambodia after a month in Berlin, only a few
days before the commencement of CamboFest’s 4th edition. He brought with
him new skills and capabilities specifically designed for organizing film
festival programs, thanks to that organization’s generous assistance and
mentorship.

Notable screenings at the 4th edition of CamboFest included, along with fifty
other new local and international films: the long-awaited official Cambodian
premiere of Robert Flaherty's pioneering documentary, 'Nanook of the
North', with historic live Khmer narration, translated and read to an eager
audience by the youth group.

The pioneering documentary finally enjoyed its official premiere in


Cambodia, 88 years after its initial release, with the permission of the Robert
Flaherty Film Seminars, Inc, who monitored and supported the production of
the event closely despite its challenges.

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‘Nanook of the North’ enjoys its belated official Cambodian premiere at the 4th edition of CamboFest
– 88 years after its release (Courtesy Flaherty Film Seminars., Inc.)

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Regrettably, due to the unexpected intervention from the Cambodian
MOCFA, the owner of Kampot’s ‘Royal’ theater had not been able to enjoy
any of the rental revenue he had been counting on and sorely needed to fix
his truck.

The CamboFest director, after the conclusion of the event, therefore went to
retrieve an unofficial payment made earlier to a staff member at the Kampot
governor’s office. This staff member had earlier promised to accelerate the
decentralized permissions process, and had assured approval from the local
Culture ministry in Kampot, a promise that was not kept.

Following a brief discussion, and in an exceptionally rare display of the


refund of unofficial fees, the governor’s staff member returned the sum to
the CamboFest director.

In turn, a coffee making kit was then purchased with the recovered
corruption money and was given to the owner of the ‘Royal’ cinema and his
family as a microbusiness mechanism.

It was hoped that the loss of rental revenue would be offset over the course
of time by this microbusiness, with the family selling cups of coffee and tea
to curious guests who continued to stop by the ‘Royal’ throughout the year.

To this day, visitors coming to the vintage ‘Royal’ movie hall in Kampot can
currently spend some time in the old Cambodian cinema house, while
enjoying a cup of coffee or tea for only $1/4000Riel*. (*guests should be
able to ask for the coffee or tea in Khmer language)

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Post-Festival Environment

After the conclusion of the 4th edition of CamboFest, it became apparent that
there are still fundamental challenges to producing a non-aligned,
independent film festival event in the current Cambodian context.

Although independent film festivals are the norm around the world, foreign
state funded efforts in the Cambodian environment are dominant and
continue to impact the viability of non-aligned media events which do not
enjoy an equal level of subsidy.

By way of example, there are many independent film festivals in neighboring


Thailand, including the Camerado-produced Bangkok IndieFest, which did
not experience any of the resistances in the media environment that had
been encountered with the production of CamboFest. (*for a comparison, see
http://cambofest.blogspot.com/2011/12/brief-comparison-of-cambofest-cambodia.html)

Moreover, a degree of market distortion resulting from the dominance of


‘free’* foreign government subsidized cultural events in Cambodia, along
with observable local government restrictions on ticket sales, makes it
a challenge to recoup event production costs at the door as per normal
developed environments. (*free locally, but paid for by taxpayers in respective home
countries)

A decision was therefore made by the director of CamboFest, after the


conclusion of the 4th edition of the event, to disengage from an annual/one
year festival cycle which is typical of mature and fully industrialized media
markets. This decision would be sustained until the media ecosystem in
Cambodia normalized to a reasonably developed level, and without
impediments imposed through market distortions resulting from heavily
subsidized, foreign-aligned programs.

The festival will continue on an event-by-event basis as demand, support,


resources, interest, and creative will allows.

However, popular demand based on numerous sign-ups on the CamboFest


mailing list, that a 5th festival edition would be welcomed, and a 5th edition
of the festival is planned.

Funders, sponsors, filmmakers, volunteers and others kindly contact


info@cambofest.com with inquiries.

15 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com


Continued Challenges:
“the shadow is darkest beneath the lamp”

Some challenges continued after the conclusion of the 4th edition of the
CamboFest festival, however, as elements of non-constructive
misinformation continued to propagate in the local Cambodian media
environment.

One notable instance of misinformation emerged, disappointingly, from a


foreign-funded media organization established ostensibly to help revive a
local cinema culture in Cambodia: the Cambodia Film Commission.

In August, 2011, some months after the conclusion of the 4th edition of
CamboFest, a foreign employee working with the Cambodian Film
Commission emailed the CamboFest director with some apparently
significant news:

from Cedric ELOY - CFC cedric.eloy@cambodia-cfc.org


to Jason Rosette / CAMERADO <jrosette@gmail.com>
date Thu, Aug 18, 2011 at 12:22 PM
subject Re: Correction ~ Fw: about CamboFest
Important mainly because of your interaction with messages in the
conversation.
hide details Aug 18

Hi Jason,

Thank you for the info.

We had a meeting with the Ministry of Culture when they told us that
CAMBOFEST was no longer authorized to operate in Cambodia.

Did you get any formal information regarding this ?...

The representative provided no further information or clarification, despite


several followup emails from the CamboFest director. Some response would
have been arguably appropriate, given that the representative, Mr. Cedric
Eloy, occupied a visible position at a significant Cambodia-based cinema
organization dedicated to the “the revival of Cambodian cinema culture” in
Cambodia (UniFrance Films Website).

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Whether Mr. Eloy’s involvement in the forthcoming 2nd edition of the
Cambodia International Film Festival (an effort which CamboFest applauds
as part of a pluralistic Cambodian civil society in any case) was a factor in
his spontaneous outreach can only be surmised.

The Cambodia Film Commission is an organization established with funding


by Film France in cooperation with the French development organization,
AFD (Groupe Agence Française de Développement), and “dedicated to the
revival of Cambodian cinema culture”.

Inexplicably, the foreign CFC representative was unwilling or unable to


clarify his statement which, if true, would adversely impact the ability of a
Cambodian youth group to remain involved with a notable Cambodia-based
film effort (CamboFest) as a vital training ground for the future “revival of
Cambodian cinema culture” in Cambodia.

On August 24th, addressing the earlier statement made by the foreign CFC
representative, the Director of the Cambodian Department of Cinema and
Diffusion in Phnom Penh provided the following clarification to the
CamboFest director and co-organizer:

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2011 07:09:21 -0700 [08/24/2011 09:09:21 AM


From: Chansaya Sin <chansayasin@ymail.com>
To: info@cambofest.com <info@cambofest.com>
Subject: Fw: CamboFest
Show this HTML in a new window?

----- Forwarded Message -----


From: Chansaya Sin <chansayasin@ymail.com>
To: The CamboFest Team <info@cambofest.com>
Sent:
Subject: Re: CamboFest

Dear Jason,
The Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department will
support you and want you to involve in the next CamboFest film
festival.

I want to meet you as soon as possible. Recently,We are preparing to


International Film Festival at beginning December 2011.

Best Regards,

17 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com


Sin Chan Saya
Director of
Department of Cinema and Cultural Diffusion
Mobile: (855) 12 864 769

The earlier, non-authorized statement by the foreign civil servant at the


Cambodia Film Commission had been directly contradicted by an authorized
Cambodian government staff member.

It was probable, nonetheless, that some individuals in the local Cambodian


operational and funding environment had mistaken the foreign CFC
representative’s (non) authority to make determinations on the part of the
Cambodian government, and had subsequently declined consideration of
CamboFest as a legitimate effort worthy of funding or support.

As a case in point, one notable local Phnom Penh movie exhibition venue,
which had already provided CamboFest with a written letter of intent to offer
venue support for the next CamboFest edition, abruptly ended contact with
the CamboFest director around the time of the foreign CFC employee’s
statement.

CamboFest had again sustained interference by foreigners in its


effort to positively impact the Cambodian civil society - in this case,
regrettably, by the employee of a foreign media development agency.

Therefore, to re-emphasize the position of the Cambodian government


regarding CamboFest, the Director of the Department of Cinema and
Cultural Diffusion clearly and definitively contradicts the earlier statement
made by the foreign civil servant working at the CFC:

“The Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department will support you and
want you to involve in the next CamboFest film festival.”

Mr. Eloy’s problematic communication was particularly disappointing, given


that the founder of CamboFest had consulted the CFC’s co-founding body
Film France, free of charge, in 2008 during research and development for
the nascent Cambodia Film Commission before that organization’s founding.

At the time, in support of the Cambodian Film Commission’s agency’s aims


and mission, CamboFest’s founder had produced a pro bono video featuring

18 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com


a discussion with Film France’s Franck Priot (See the video on Youtube @
www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUKBdBNTxj0)

Interested persons, now and into the future, are therefore encouraged only
to contact an authorized Cambodian government representative with
questions regarding the legitimacy of any media or cultural undertaking or
project taking place in the Cambodian environment.

In any case, two months later, during a late October meeting between Mr.
Sin Chan Saya and the CamboFest director, Mr. Sin Chan Saya stated that
Mr. Eloy ‘would be leaving’ the Cambodian Film Commission.

He further stated that he was aware of additional consternation and signs of


disharmony, expressed by other media practitioners in Cambodia and
beyond, which had been caused by the foreign civil servant’s behavior. He
did not elaborate further.

CamboFest encourages all media practitioners and development staff


working in Cambodia to adopt a contemporary, pluralistic, and inclusive
approach to cultural and media efforts in the modern, independent
Cambodian context.

CamboFest furthermore suggests that all foreigners in Cambodia, whether


involved in the development sector or private sector, cease any destructive
expressions of territorialism or rivalry that may cause damage to the stated
common cause of assisting Cambodia’s development.

The Next Stage and Beyond

With the Cambodian government representative’s statement of support of


CamboFest, in late 2011 the festival commenced an international traveling
component. This marks the first time that a Cambodian film festival will
travel internationally.

CamboFest would be making its first stop in New York City on December 6,
2011, with selections from CamboFest and its regional affiliate, Bangkok
IndieFest, screening in that town of 8 million souls.

Cambodian, Thai, Laotian, and other international films from the CamboFest
4th edition are slated to screen on December 6, 2011, at the renowned
Anthology Film Archives, an international center for the preservation, study,

19 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com


and exhibition of film and video founded in 1969 by Jonas Mekas, Jerome
Hill, P. Adams Sitney, Peter Kubelka, and Stan Brakhage.

(Further host venues around the world TBA as they are confirmed on an
ongoing basis; interested venues can contact info@cambofest.com)

Meanwhile, in Cambodia, the YAHRD youth group has undertaken several


screening events of their own since the conclusion of CamboFest’s 4th
edition, using AV equipment provided by CamboFest’s individual contributors
during fundraising efforts in 2010/2011.

Youth group representatives stated in late November 2011 that they intend
to continue undertaking their own movie shows, as they had started doing
following the conclusion of the 4th CamboFest event.

Following the 4th edition of CamboFest, the YAHRD Youth group undertakes its own autonomous
screenings using gear on loan from CamboFest and contributed by individual worldwide supporters

20 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com


Most recently, the group leader stated that H.E. Khieu Kanharith, Cambodian
Minister of Information, had personally applauded their efforts and had
encouraged them to continue to further promoting Khmer cinema as best
they can.

21 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com


SUMMARY

This report should serve as one example of the types of challenges that may
occur in any country that is seeking to develop its civil society through any
number of foreign agencies and guests.

Local governments are advised to observe their own development situations,


and in the case of observable disharmony or non-constructive rivalry or
territorialism, intervene in order to educate and guide practitioners, actors,
and institutions in a more suitable and constructive way.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Based on experiences producing the CamboFest 4th edition and related


efforts in Cambodia, CamboFest makes the following recommendations in
order to reasonably and effectively continue to develop a media and film
industry in Cambodia.

For Non-Cambodian Agencies, Persons, and Governments Operating


in Cambodia:

• Kindly recognize Cambodia’s sovereignty as an independent nation,


and accordingly defer in all cases to the Cambodian government’s
authority to determine and approve media and cultural related efforts.

• Interested 3rd party persons, practitioners, investors, funders,


audience members, filmmakers, and others should only seek out an
official Cambodian government position regarding the validity and
legitimacy of any media events or efforts in the Cambodian territory,
versus than relying on local hearsay or other non-authorized
perspectives.

• Foreign guests in Cambodia: kindly refrain from obstructing or


otherwise interfering with any legitimate project or effort, of any scale
or funding level, which has been approved by the Cambodian
government.

For the Cambodian Government and Relevant Authorities:

• Maintain reasonable oversight over foreign guests to ensure that


behaviors are not detrimental to the overall development of the civil

22 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com


society. Current trends in Cambodia point to an increasingly distorted
patron-client relationship, with some foreign elements exhibiting
excessively autonomous, unmoderated, and counterproductive
influence.

• Educate foreign residents, guests, business owners, and


representatives of development and political organizations, regarding
the limitations of their authority to speak on behalf of relevant
Cambodian government agencies.

• Encourage independent, fully Cambodian staffed and funded efforts


and organizations in order to build local confidence and capability over
the long term, while offsetting the influence and reliance upon foreign
elements.

CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival (www.cambofest.com) looks


forward to its 5th edition, and welcomes contributors, sponsors, partners,
filmmakers, fans, and supporters.

Get the latest updates by subscribing to the CamboFest mailing list

http://eepurl.com/d5L

23 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com


NOTES

CamboFest co-organizers, colleagues and staff include:


Phun Sokunthearith, Co-organizer (DW-Akademie alumnus)
Mr. Jason “Camerado” Rosette, Founder/Co-organizer
The YAHRD Youth Group (http://yahrd.wordpress.com/)
Mr. Suong Sambath, Logistics and Operations
...and others as the event continues to grow and evolve.

Decentralization in Cambodia

UNCDF Report:
http://www.uncdf.org/english/local_development/uploads/thematic/adb/UNC
DF_Cambodia.pdf

UN Report
http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan020699.p
df

Film Commissions

Association of Film Commissions International:


http://www.afci.org/production-resources/value-commission

An example of a successful and active US based film commission is the New


Mexico Film Office: http://www.nmfilm.com/

Operating with limited funds, the Film Office maintains an objective,


non-involved position in the local industry. The organization provides
information and referrals to resources to all local vendors and staff, without
bias or favoritism.

CamboFest’s 3rd Edition

Photo and video coverage & a look behind the scenes at the challenges and
successes of the 3rd Edition of CamboFest:
http://cambofest.blogspot.com/2009/12/initial-pix-content-from-cambofest-
2009.html

(Downloadable Kindle version of this report available shortly on Amazon Digital –


check back soon for download links HERE)

24 CAMBOFEST, Cambodia Film Festival 4th Edition Post-Festival Report www.cambofest.com

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