Mao Ayuth: Ne Sat Kror Per (The Crocodile, 2005)
San (Nhem Sokunthol) has lost his wife, relatives, neighbours, best friend and almost his own life to crocodiles. He is determined to sacrifice everything to kill Kror Per Nak Ta (the crocodile king). One of the few quality films with an appropriate budget in the last decade.
Poan Phoung Bopha: Tek Chet Mday (Mother’s Heart, 2005)
A mother of four children tries hard to provide them with education. When they grow up, the neglect her, and she dies of sorrow. A melodrama that many parents could relate to.
Dy Saveth: Thida Sork Pous (The Snake Girl 1972)
After an affair with a snake, a woman gives birth to a daughter that has snakes on her head instead of hair. Ah Mei (Dy Saveth) grows up and meets Fei Long (Kong Sam Oeun). He falls in love with her, however his mother wants him to marry his stepfather’s daughter, Mila. The film climaxes in a killing ceremony, when droves of snakes attack and kill off most of the family.
Yvon Hem: Sror Mori Anthakal (Shadow of Darkness, 1987)
The family tragedy set during the Khmer Rouge period and directed by veteran director Yvon Hem was the first local production after 1979: A whole family gets wiped out, because their son Visal has dared to secretly cook rice. Only Visal manages to escape to Vietnam.
Lay Ngounheng: Tep Sodachan (Tep Sodachan, 1968)
Angel Tep Sodachan (Tit Vichara Dany) falls in love with mortal Veasna (Kong Sam Oeun), the poor servant of a rich and cruel man. She comes to earth to live with Veasna, but as she is beautiful, his evil master tries to get her. The lovers escape, but now Sodachan’s father is after them, too. Sodachan delivers a baby before she has to go back to heaven. One of the most popular films from the ‘Golden Age of Khmer Cinema’.
Tea Lim Koun: Pous Keng Korng (Snake King’s Wife, 1960s)
Nhi encounters a big snake when she and her daughter are searching for food. The snake promises to help them if Nhi agrees to make love with her. Nhi gets pregnant. When her husband discovers this, he plans to kill the snake king. He also attacks his wife, who, while dying, gives birth to several little snakes. Based on a Cambodian fairy tale, this film was remade in 2001 by Fay Sam Ang because of its popularity.
King Norodom Sihanouk: Rous Dory Sabbay (Joy of Life, 1968)
The police raids a gambling place, disguised as an orchid shop in Kirirom, owned by Prince Chantovong. While the prince is in prison, his wife, Princess Sulpra (Saksi Sbong), has affairs with her newphew (Kong Sam Oeun) and then with hotelier Okhnia Sneha Sambat. After being released from prison, Prince Chantavong tries to get his wife back. King Sihanouk delivers a biting satire of his own environment, the Royal Palace with its intrigues and affairs. The campy films shows a modern and westernized Cambodia, and has a dance scene that has to be seen to be believed.
Fay Samang: Tum Teav (Tum Teav, 2003)
The Cambodian Romeo and Juliet abount the impossible love between a monk and a girl has been turned into a film a couple of times. This high-budget production is by one of Cambodia’s most famous directors.
Ly Bun Yim: Puthisen Neang Korngrey (12 Sisters, 1968)
A poor farmer couple abandons their twelve daughters in the forest, where the king meets them and marries all of them. Instigated by his thirteenth wife, he blinds all of them and throws them in a cave, where they bear his children. Over-the-top fantasy film by Cambodia’s most eccentric director.
Rithy Panh: Yob Mouy Kroy Sangkream (One Evening After the War, 1997)
Cambodian-French arthouse director Rithy Panh tells the story of ex-soldier Savannah, who tries to eke out a meager existence in Phnom Penh after his discharge from the army during the administration of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).
Reprinted, with kind permission, from the excellent ‘KON: The Cinema of Cambodia’. You can download the whole first issue here. Stay tuned for an interview with the magazine’s supervisor, Dr Tilman Baumgartel soon.