Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Film school back on agenda

Filming on location with Khmer Mekong Film in this file photograph.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Despite a delay in South Korean funding for the establishment of a local cinema academy, Royal University to create in-house faculty of film studies.

THE Royal University of Fine Arts is to establish a local film academy with the assistance of the Ministry of Culture next year, despite a delay in South Korean funds pledged to the Ministry of Culture in 2006.

University Deputy Director Proeung Chheang said the ministry had originally planned to found a film school this year, but that the plans would be scaled down because funds from South Korea had been delayed by the onset of the global economic crisis.

Instead of the full-scale school planned under Korean auspices, the university will instead go it alone and create an in-house department to teach film and acting techniques.

"We will no longer wait for support from the Korean National University of Art, and we will create a department of cinema by ourselves in the next year," he said.

He said also that a film school was vital for the survival of Cambodian cinema and a central part of bringing local talent up to a professional standard.

"If we have no local film school, Khmer cinema will be hopeless forever," he said.

"I want to use our country's human resources in order to develop our cinema to the same level as in other countries."

Proeung Chheang said the school would likely offer student scholarships in addition to fee-based programs. Although he said charging students fees was not ideal, he said he hoped it would help attract experienced teachers and quality equipment for the school.

Minister of Culture Him Chhem said the proposed school would be put under the management of the university and would be staffed with local and foreign teachers with experience in the industry.


"It is our goal to have a faculty of cinema, but we are still not sure if we will open a faculty or a whole school," he said, referring to the uncertainty over the Korean funds.

"But it is important to establish a cinema school because up until now our film actors and actresses have never received any training. Our film industry is not up to a very high standard, so we need to improve the sector, which will help promote our culture."

New golden age
Ly Bun Yim, a local filmmaker who directed 1972's Twelve Sisters and Khmer After Angkor - one of the last films to be completed before the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975 - said that education in film and acting was vital to reverse the recent closure of many Phnom Penh movie houses.

"I think that once we establish a cinema school, Khmer films will be better even than they were in the 1950s and 1960s because of our cooperation with Korea," he said, adding that the previous generation of Khmer filmmakers had to go to France to receive film training.

Resources are also a central issue for the local industry, and Ly Bun Yim said that in the earlier generation films could were made for around US$500,000.

"If we want to make our movies look good, film producers will have to have good equipment and a lot of money," he said.

"I'm very happy to share my knowledge with the next generation if they invite me to help them."

Proeung Chheang also expressed regrets over the closures that have decimated Phnom Penh's once-flourishing cinema scene and hoped a local school could help reverse the decline.

"I regret that most of the cinemas were closed, and that we don't have the ability to prevent their closure," he said. "So that's why we have been trying to find sponsors to open a film school."

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