Sok Visal returned to his native Cambodia from France 25 years ago to make art and reclaim his roots. He now helms a film and music collective that is leading a creative revival
Cambodian audiences are still warming to the moviegoing experience just a few years after Phnom Penh got its first modern cineplex, in 2012. The country’s vibrant filmmaking scene was cut short by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, and it wasn’t until 2001 that the first Cambodian film would be made post-liberation. The old theatres that were packed with fans in the 1960s and 1970s had been turned into restaurants, shops and massage parlours. When the cinema returned, moviegoers talked openly on their cellphones and shouted at the screen.
Sok Visal found it to be an uncouth experience that made him cringe. But things have improved since then, and he’s hoping his latest film, a nostalgic tour of contemporary Cambodian history featuring the music of one of the Kingdom’s most famous singers, fills seats when it debuts in March.
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