I am so honored to be part of your community, so thank you for being so welcoming.” – Angelina Jolie, 9.16.17, Art Theatre, Long Beach, CA

Thursday, 9.14.17 – Friday 9.15.17: Setting the Scene

Before the first reel started spinning at the fifth annual Cambodia Town Film Festival (CTFF), energy was already high. As with each year before, the community came out in force to welcome the visiting filmmakers and guests from around the globe with red-carpet treatment. These kick-off days have always been especially notable not only for the display of unity and pride for and from within the Cambodian diasporic community of Long Beach, but also for the great diversity of people from across the country and the world who arrive to an unwaveringly warm reception, all coming together to celebrate the again flourishing international Cambodian film scene.

The filmmakers of ‘SURVIVING BOKATOR’ and CTFF Members
‘CHEFS OFF THE BOAT‘ catering for CTFF Filmmakers Welcome Reception
CTFF Co-Founder, Co-Director, Caylee So welcoming everyone to the fifth annual Cambodia Town Film Festival

Saturday, 9.16.17: First We Sold Out the Theatre

This year’s festival launched in epic fashion with a Saturday morning VIP list including writer, scholar, and activist Loung Ung; internationally acclaimed film director Rithy Panh; and the globally renowned actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian Angelina Jolie – all in attendance to promote their new Netflix Original Film First They Killed My Father. Speaking to the mostly Cambodian-American audience, Jolie said

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I know this film is one story. I hope when you see it you understand that we kept in mind and in our hearts all of the millions of lives and families effected by this war. And it’s impossible to represent, but I hope when you see it you feel connected, and you feel it represents you and your family and your country which I love so deeply and am so grateful to. And I am so honored to be part of your community, so thank you for being so welcoming.” – Angelina Jolie

CTFF Founders, Directors, praCh and Caylee SO presented Angelina JOLIE the CTFF 2017 BEST PICTURE Award for her film ‘First They Killed My Father’

Her words perfectly encapsulated the spirit of her film, the day, and the festival as a whole. This year’s film selections included the greatest number of films to date, with the CTFF’s characteristic collage of artistic styles, local and international filmmakers, perspectives on the Cambodian experience, and visions for the future.

Q&A with Loung UNG, moderated by CTFF Founder, praCh

Following a full day of films – spanning historical drama to romantic comedy, more than two hours feature-length to an under ten-minute short – the audience was in for special new addition to the festival. Just after 9:00pm the Art Theatre raised its spotlights for the first-ever Khmers of Comedy live stand up show. Professional Cambodian-American comedians brought down the house with their relatable, uniquely Khmer brands of comedy, rounding out this monumental day of events.

During their Q&A, moderated by Kathryn Lejeune, our co-Founder PraCh Ly gave the Directors of ‘Float’ their CTFF 2017 Official Selection plaque
THE KHMERS OF COMEDY! They made history. The first ever, all Cambodian-American Stand Up Comedy Show! — with Kethia ‘K’ Chheng, Cooper Lee, Paul Lao, Davine Ker, Chris Sanders and Narin Vann

Sunday, 9.17.17: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Saturday had been a day dominated by narrative film. Sunday brought a lineup heavy with incisive documentaries, enriched with three powerful Q&As with the activist filmmakers of A Cambodian SpringSurviving Bokator, and Until They’re Gone.

The day opened with the Venerable Loun Savath and Director Chris Kelly sharing their harrowing recent experiences using film to document human rights and land-rights abuses in Cambodia today. Kelly honored what he sees as the “bravery and courage of people like Venerable Loun Savath” who are fighting to prevent the government from stripping them of their homes unlawfully and with impunity.

Q&A with Chris Kelly and Venerable Loun Sovath, moderated by Dr. Christine Su
Director Chris Kelly receiving CTFF 2017 awards for ‘BEST DOCUMENTARY’ of the Year for his film ‘A Cambodian

Throughout the films, two themes that emerged were how intimately our pasts, presents, and futures intertwine; and how a community might rise or fall as one body. The final film screened at the festival, Angkor Awakens: A Portrait of Cambodia, explicitly explored these ideas by looking at the Cambodian experience of today through a long historical lens, including the genocide and earlier. Together, the films seemed to implore the audience to see the world from new perspectives so that together we might better build a more empathetic international community rooted in respect and love.

Q&A with Tharoth Sam, Master Kenya Prach and the filmmakers of Surviving Bokator. Moderated by Shawna Lesseur
After the screening of SURVIVING BOKATOR, Tharoth Sam put an a demonstration for the audience at the Long Beach Kickboxing Center
Q&A with Bill Morse and Christopher Lockett, moderated by Caylee So
Our wonderful volunteers!

Closing Credits

This year’s fifth annual Cambodia Town Film Festival hosted a West Coast Premier, two U.S. Premiers, and a World Premier. The Long Beach, CA community rallied in greater numbers than ever before to create a world-class film festival experience for local and international participants alike. And the festival continued to draw some of the most respected celebrities in contemporary Cambodian film.

After five years, the Cambodia Town Film Festival is living up to Director Caylee So’s original vision to proclaim to the world: “We were here. We are here. We will continue to be here. We are not lost.”