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Cambodia's big-budget film dream


07-25-2014 00:23 BJT

In Cambodia, film companies are pouring money into producing big-budget movies, in the hopes of attracting a bigger audience and getting their films screened overseas. A new movie called "Sbek Gong" will hit Cambodian screens soon, and boasts a budget of half a million U.S. dollars.

The producers of Sbek Gong say the film has the biggest budget in a recent trend of Cambodian blockbusters.

"We produced it with the aim of competing in the Asian market, because we see that our people like to watch most of the movies from Thailand and Hong Kong, so we want our movies to succeed in those markets as well," said Pol Vibo, producer of "Sbek Gong".

"Sbek Gong" means "a person who is invincible". It tells the story of a group of men trying to gain power from a master living deep in the Cambodian jungle during the Khmer Rouge regime. The supernatural action-comedy is filled with computer-generated effects, which have not been used before in Cambodian cinema.

Yet Cambodian film producer Leak Lyda, known for making small-budget comedies, says movies like Sbek Gong are far from the norm.

"I see that the film market is beginning to expand, but if we talk about the quality, it is still short of international standards. We have just seen the Angkor Picture film, which they spent a lot on and made it to international standards, but most of our film makers, including my productions, have limited budgets," film producer Leak Lyda said.

Cambodian movies rarely make it to screens outside of the country. Currently, all local films have to submit their scripts to the government's Cinema and Cultural Diffusion department. The department's director says he feels optimistic about the future of the Cambodian film industry.

"In the direction, acting, and production of our films, we have moved towards international standards, and our film directors are more qualified. So I hope in the future we will have more good films, that meet the standard for both national and international markets," said Sin Chansaya, director of Cinema & Cultural Diffusion Dept..

One cinema in the Cambodian capital, called Major Cineplex, screens only international films from Thailand and the U.S, among others. One moviegoer explains why he prefers Hollywood movies.

"Our Khmer movies seem slower, kind of romantic, not as fast as other overseas films. I like to watch movies that are fast-paced, more science-fiction, so American films are my favourite," moviegoer Khuong Dara said.

Sbek Gong's producers are now in talks with cinema companies across the region, and hope the film will finally make it to the international big screen.

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