The 13th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF)


The 13th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF), held from June 25th to 30th, 2024, celebrated a diverse selection of more than one hundred and fifty films from over 40 countries; with fifty international filmmakers in attendance. This year’s festival showcased an enthralling blend of short and feature films, documentaries, and animations, captivating audiences with compelling narratives and innovative filmmaking.

The festival featured the premiere of “Elvis of Cambodia,” a documentary delving into the life of iconic Cambodian singer Sin Sisamouth. The very glamourous, red carpet screening took place at Chaktomuk Theatre to announce the festival on opening night.

Throughout the week, CIFF provided a platform for both emerging and established filmmakers to showcase their work, fostering cultural exchange and appreciation for cinematic artistry. With free screenings held across various venues in Phnom Penh, including Legend Cinemas, Major Cineplex, and the French Institute,ophana Centre, Rosewood Hotel Phnom Penh, Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Centre (CJCC) and Fable Cinema.

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona said the Cambodian International Film Festival, “Is a dynamic hub for global filmmakers to exchange ideas and experiences that provide a valuable platform for young Cambodians to expand their perspectives, through a diverse selection of films from around the world”.

The minister acknowledged the support of various partners, such as the UN Development Fund (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WEP) and the Indian and Australian embassies to Cambodia. She also praised the efforts of Panh Rithy, whose film “Rendez-vous avec Pol Pot” (Meeting with Pol Pot) was featured at the Cannes Film Festival and screened in over 200 theatres across France. Additionally, she expressed gratitude to National Bank of Cambodia governor Chea Serey for her crucial support in raising awareness and strengthening the country’s film industry.

The Department of Cinema and Cultural Diffusion notes that the Cambodian film industry significantly contributes to economic development and job creation in the Kingdom. In 2023, around four million cinemagoers generated nearly fifteen million US dollars in revenue. The Department added that; the industry has created around 7,000 jobs, which greatly benefits the nation’s youth. The festival attracted a wide audience and reinforced Cambodia’s growing prominence in the international film scene.

The closing ceremony keynote speaker, was Dr. Digby James Wren, Chair of Belt and Road Capital Partners, Publisher of Long Mekong Media and Founder of Young ASEAN Minds, with a 40-year career across all six continents in film, media and communications.

Dr Wren was effusive in his praise and support for the festival and suggested an even brighter future lay just ahead:

“We are gathered here to celebrate the conclusion, and immense success, of the 13th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF13) and to commence the exciting task of building a vibrant and successful New Golden Age of Cambodian cinema and cultural production.

To that end I wish to share with you some key steps in achieving the construction of a self-sustaining and well-funded future for Cambodian cultural production, in what I like to call a marriage of Analogue and Digital.

First, a major government push towards Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) includes a strong cultural production capacity. As a professor of both International Relations and Media and Communications, and as a government policy advisor, I understand the relationship between government, business, education, and the culture and arts community represented here tonight.

Second, as the Chair of a US$1 Billion investment pipeline of infrastructure, energy, media, agriculture, logistics, transport, manufacturing and Digital services, I understand the importance of private entrepreneurship and its relationship with the economic development of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

So how does all this fit with building a vibrant Cinema and Cultural production capacity for Cambodia?

First, it brings a pipeline of projects: I have recently negotiated production and distribution agreements, worth more than $2.5 million dollars in the first 12 months, with both a major Hollywood film and television network and a similar deal with the largest Mainland Chinese Media Group. These are designed to promote Cambodia as a tourism destination, education hub, and vibrant modernising economy that can successfully attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Importantly the projects also enhance and strengthen the Kingdom’s educational and vocational and technical training services. Professionals can teach and train, students learn and gain and the projects compliment and collaborate with Cambodia’s existing cultural production ecosystem to further strengthen its capacity and capabilities.

Second, the pipeline brings cultural production projects and educational initiatives, such as a Khmer Royal Court Dance and Beijing Opera collaboration, to build a shared future through arts and culture exchange. I have signed an MoU with Prof. Xie Boliang and the Beijing National Academy of Dramatic Arts to do exactly that, and have negotiated many more cultural production MoUs, which are in the pipeline. All local and international arts and culture programs and exchanges include film and media production components to foster Cambodia’s cultural production capabilities and promote the Kingdom’s increasingly dynamic society and economy.

Cultural production also requires PPPs for film festivals such as CIFF13 and the wider international ecosystem of cinema and cultural markets within BRICS+, Belt and Road (BRI or New Silk Road) countries and, Cambodia’s ASEAN, RCEP, Indian, European and North American partners.

To that end, my team has begun organising a pipeline of cultural events and festivals, seminars and conferences, workshops and classes that focus on practice, production and projects.

Third, together with our technology partners, we have established a program of Higher Education degrees at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) as well as a vocational and technical diploma programs in media and communications and advanced computer aided media production such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital platforms, Cloud and Large Language Models (LLM).

Fourth, all PPPs are dedicated to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and, therefore, are focused on sustainable and ecological projects to reduce poverty, improve living standards, and digitalise, extend and improve the provision of Cambodia’s government services, especially in respect to rural economic development.
Lastly, all PPPs require renewed vigour in the provision and training of Cambodian talent, exposure to regional and global ‘best practice’ in cultural production and, most of all, the collective spirit of the entire Cambodian ecosystem of cultural and arts production, particularly in relation to cinema and media.

Before I finish, I am announcing a series of round-tables to be hosted at the RAC and, other partner venues in the Kingdom’s towns and cities, to plan, organise and implement the initiatives outlined above.

I thank you for your time and congratulate all of the participants in the production and execution of this year’s hugely successful 13th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF13) and look forward to constructing dynamic long-term partnerships as together we commence the journey toward the 14th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF14) and the fostering and strengthening of the cultural production ecosystem of the Kingdom of Cambodia in the years ahead.”

Special programs this year included “Lifelong Learning” and “Road to Olympia,” which aim to motivate young people to pursue their dreams. The “Lifelong Learning” program, in partnership with the Australian Embassy in Cambodia, celebrated the transformative power of education through films that covered a range of inspiring careers.

The “Road to Olympia” program featured films related to sports achievements, aligning with the Olympic Games year. Highlights included the Australian film “Freeman” and the American film “Featherweight,” both of which were presented in discussions with their directors.

The festival also paid a special tribute to Biv Chhay Leang, a notable figure from the “Golden Age” of Khmer cinema, showcasing some of his surviving works. Additionally, CIFF thirteen highlighted Cambodian cinema with the “Cambodian Fiction” and “Stories in Cambodia” segments, which included both premieres and classic films that capture the essence of Cambodian culture and history.

Internationally, CIFF’s “Stories of the World” and “Colorful Worlds” programs showcased a variety of films acclaimed for their unique storytelling and cinematic achievements. This included works that explored complex themes such as migration, environmental challenges, and the human condition.

CIFF has been endorsed by acclaimed Patrons Rithy Panh, Angelina Jolie, Elodie Yung, Matt Dillon.

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