The inaugural ‘Kampung Film Festival’ at Koh Sdach (King’s island) in cambodia

Davy Chou, writes:

Being asked how Kampung Film Festival was born, I started telling the story of Danech San’s will to « give back » to the community of Koh Sdach Island what she felt to have received from them, but then, doubting about the accuracy of this narrative, I asked her myself to tell me again, and realized that the real story was even stronger. Here is what I remember of it.

In 2021, Danech shot a documentary on Koh Sdach named Sea Within a Sea, which dealt with the protection of the sea fauna and the environmental impact of the fishing business. The film was shown in several festivals abroad and in Phnom Penh. But Danech wanted to show her film to Koh Sdach’s inhabitants. She then thought that, if she was to organize a screening there, why not showing a couple more films, especially since the people living on the island had rarely, not to say never, access to a big screen experience? But how to finance what now seemed to be a small film program? She thought of applying to Purin Pictures’ grant, the only film fund dedicated to cinema-related activities for the whole region of Southeast Asia (and for this, 🙏🙏🙏 to Aditya Assarat, Anocha Suwichakornpong and Visra Vichit-Vadakant, it’s a miracle that such project exists). But to have a chance, we would better have a solid dossier. So… Was it a film festival? Yes, maybe it was. Danech prepared and sent an application, under Anti-Archive, and her project got selected. A small amount, which we decided will need to be enough to cover the expenses of the event. And so Kampung Film Festival was born.

I took time to write the details of the different steps of the project because it truly amazes me to see how, from a simple idea of a single screening for the community of the place where a film was shot, this simple idea “without vision”, I could say, but not without meaning, has progressively transformed into something larger, in terms of size (3 days, 6 films), field (the event finally included a photo and art video installation, as well as a stop motion animation workshop for high school students) and audience (hundreds of islanders each night with so many kids, people from Phnom Penh, but also film friends from Thailand, Vietnam and even California), but something that has never forgotten to protect and cherish the original impulse behind all of it: bringing films to people who usually don’t have access to them. Making the festival for them. And sharing what a cinema experience can be at its best: a collective moment of joy.

For all this, and as I have found myself more as a normal audience of the festival during these three days, I want to express my profound admiration and gratitude to all the people and supporters who have made this event possible. It was so inspiring to witness.

❤❤❤ to Danech San – which I heard people secretely calling “The Queen”-, Bandiddh Prum, Sorn Srenh aka “Sea”, Penkuro, Lyna Kourn, Thara T Yorke, Shanghai Chang, Bank Vath, Daniel Mattes, the 20 volunteers who were all students living on Koh Sdach, Soly Roth, Mok Rotha, Sok Visal who made us all dance on the beach until 4:30am on the last night and made me break my self-promise of a non-alcohol month, Sa Sa Art Projects, Khvay Samnang, Lim Sokchanlina, Chanveasna Chum, Kavich Neang, Sreylin Meas, and the wonderful team who made the mobile screening possible: Valentin Dbe and his crew at Travelling Screen. To our “international guests” Pom Bunsermvicha, Parinee Buthrasri, Nguyen Thi Xuan Trang and PraCh Ly, the director of Cambodia Town Film Festival in Long Beach, California, who spent an hour cutting wild flowers on the island to offer a final bouquet to Danech. And to Purin Pictures of course without who nothing would have been possible.

See you next year for more outdoor screenings and corals snorkeling.