Above: Filmmakers of ‘The Witch’ pose after a Q&A at the 2018 Cambodia Town Film Festival. Photo via Cambodia Town Film Festival.
With Long Beach having the largest Cambodian community in the nation with over 50,000 residents, the Cambodia Town Film Festival has come every year to further strengthen those ties.
Launching this week, the Cambodia Town Film Festival “highlights the diversity of the Cambodian experience” through films showing Cambodian struggles and traditions. Founded in 2013, the festival not only gives representation to the Cambodian community, but also typically underrepresented and marginalized people as they also showcase films from around the world.
Co-founder of the Cambodia Town Film Festival, Prach Ly, also known by his rapper name praCh, explained his reason for creating this festival.
“The takeaway of this festival is that we’re rebuilding what we have lost during the war and sharing them with different generations of people,” said praCh. Below are three reasons why you should get over to the festival this week and weekend.
It might be the last chance to see Cambodia’s ‘King of Rap’ perform live
Above: PraCh bumping it on his headphones. Photo via his Facebook.
For what may be the last time, well-known rapper and Long Beach local praCh will be performing the DALAMA chronicles– his famous rap albums which revolve around his cultural experiences as well as the horrific events of the Khmer Rouge. Released in 2000, praCh recorded his debut album in 1999 from his parents’ garage in Long Beach when he was just 19, before the album landed on Cambodian shores and became the first in the rap game to become a top-selling album there. The Cambodian government banned his hit songs from the radio for being “too controversial.” Now, praCh will be moving on from an international rap career in order to focus more on filmmaking.
PraCh mentioned that his possibly-final performance will be recorded and sent to schools for learning purposes and that all of the proceeds from the show will be donated to the Long Beach- and Cambodia-based Khmer Alumni Association, as well as Qhmer, the first Cambodian LGBTQ+ organization in Long Beach.
Women filmmakers are topping the list
Above: Caylee So takes a look to make sure the picture’s right. Photo via Innovision Pictures.
Out of all the Cambodia Town Film Festivals so far, praCh believes this year has the best lineup.
“We are a Cambodian film festival,” said praCh, “but we also represent giving a platform for people who are underrepresented.”
This year’s festival has over 13 new women filmmakers presenting their films. The film screenings begin with the showing of In the Life of Music, directed by Cambodian-American Caylee So and music producer Sok Visal. In the Life of Music incorporates how one song deeply embedded in the culture symbolizes the dismantling of romanticism with the murder of artists and musicians during the Khmer Rouge throughout the lives of three generations split into three chapters.
Along with winning a slate of festival awards, the Cambodia Oscar Selection Committee also selected the film to represent Cambodia for the 92nd Oscar Academy Awards early next year.
PraCh and Caylee So, who is also a co-founder of the Cambodia Town Film Festival, have already signed on to create another film, which Caylee So will be writing and directing while praCh produces. The storyline cannot be revealed yet but Caylee So will be given the creative freedom to write and direct the film however she wants.
It’s the — only — place to see certain films and listen-in on unique panels
Above: Angelina Jolie speaks to the crowd during the 2018 Cambodia Town Film Festival. Photo via Cambodia Town Film Festival.
Netflix has nothing on this festival. Other special events include the showing of Funan, an intimate animated feature directed by French-Cambodian director Denis Do centering on his family’s experiences fleeing the Khmer Rouge. There will also be a rare re-mastered, HD screening of Ly Bun Yim’s film 12 Sisters (or Puthisen Neang Kongrey in Khmer) which is based on a popular ancient Khmer myth and can’t be seen anywhere else.
PraCh confirmed in a follow-up e-mail that the lead actress for the film, the legendary Virak Dara, will be attending the screening and participate in a Q&A afterwards.
Following the showing of In the Life of Music will be a panel called “The Descendants of Genocide Survivors,” hosted by Ellen Wong, who is best known for her role as Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and other roles in CW’s The Carrie Diaries and Netflix’s GLOW.
The panel will feature women from around the world speaking about their personal experiences and histories with the Cambodian genocide, Native American genocide, and the Holocaust.
The entire festival will begin Friday, September 13th with an 80’s movie themed party. Film screenings start on Saturday, September 14 at the Art Theatre (2025 E 4th Street, Long Beach, CA 90814) and conclude on the 15th with the screening of Funan.