Cambodia has an extensive history with cinema, having reached a “Golden Age of Film” in the 1960s, but has been almost unrecognised due to political struggles and wars. In response to this, a new generation of filmmakers began working with limited resources to produce and film local films, without knowing their history. As part of his documentation of the history and stories of Cambodian cinema, Dr. LinDa Saphan has authored “Faded Reels: The Art of Four Cambodian Filmmakers 1960-1975.”
The Faded Reels of Cambodian Cinema
The book addresses Cambodia’s visual and popular culture of the early years of Cambodian cinema. During the 1960s, Cambodia’s film industry experienced a Golden Age due to the opening of several film production companies and theaters across the country. More than 400 films were produced during this period. It was during this time that Ly Bun Yim, Tea Lim Koun, Yvon Hem, and Uong Citta (Kanthouk) launched their careers, creating classics such as The Snake Man, The Twelve Sisters Story, Sovannahong, and Thavary Meas Bong.
In addition to plot summaries and film screenshots, the book provides information on 16 rare Cambodian films; giving readers an insight into an undocumented period of Southeast Asian film history.
Film fans and students alike will appreciate “Faded Reels”, which describes a wide range of scenes from the film set of the era, demonstrating each director’s technical excellence, innovative storytelling, compelling characters, and beautiful cinematography. Each filmmaker’s career is also described in a mini-biography, as well as how their work has influenced Cambodian cinema. There is an exclusive interview with director Uong Citta, as well as an analysis of landmark Cambodian films, and experts from the Khmer film industry.
The book will hopefully be the first of many that will help build an academic resource for Cambodian filmmaking. Written in English and translated into Khmer by the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Department of Media and Communication. She published her book with the Royal University of Phnom Penh after their success with modern Khmer adaptations.
Faded Reels: The Art of Four Cambodian Filmmakers, 1960-1975 brings to light the essential contributions to world cinema made by Cambodia’s greatest pre war directors: Ly Bun Yim, Tea Lim Koun, Yvon Hem, and Uong Citta (Kanthouk). With in-depth plot summaries, stunning screenshots, and discussions of 16 rare Cambodian films, this book gives readers access to a largely undocumented period of Southeast Asian film history. A Cambodian cinema history for movie lovers and film scholars alike, Faded Reels includes detailed scene descriptions that feature the technical craftsmanship, innovation, complex storytelling, compelling characters, and beautiful cinematography of each director, while situating their biographies in the socio-cultural context of Cambodian history. Highlights include an exclusive interview with director Uong Citta, and chapters focusing on key films such as The Snake Man, The Twelve Sisters Story, Sovannahong, and Thavary Meas Bong. Extensively researched, this first analysis of the early Cambodian films is an addition to global cinema.
Golden Slumbers A film by Davy Chou
Between the early 1960s and 1975, Cambodia was home to a vibrant film industry that produced more than 400 features. When the Khmer Rouge seized control of the country, they halted production, demolishing the industry along most of the rest of the country's cultural life. Cinemas were closed, prints destroyed, and the filmmakers, actors, and screenwriters who were not able to flee the country were slaughtered.
Davy Chou's GOLDEN SLUMBERS resurrects this cinema's heyday. Though very few of the films from this period have remained intact, Chou uses the soundtracks, advertisements, posters and lobby cards to recreate his subjects' shared memories of a golden era.
The film contains interviews with the era's surviving artists, including directors Ly Bun Yim, Ly You Sreang, and Yvon Hem, and actor Dy Saveth. Two dedicated cinephiles-one of whom says he can remember the faces of film stars better than those of his brothers and sisters-recall plotlines and trade film trivia. Chou also takes us inside Phnom Penh's shuttered movie palaces, now transformed into karaoke bars, restaurants, and squats.
These reminiscences and recreations testify that while the most of the films of this era have vanished, their memory endures for an entire generation of Cambodians, leaving a complex legacy for today's youth to inherit.