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APA: How did you find the two cinephiles, Ouk Silayouth and Lim Vong Thavy?
DC: I started by myself in January 2009 in Phnom Penh. I was doing research on other projects, and in October 2009, I organized, with the help of a young Cambodian group Kon Khmer Koun Khmer, a small film festival showing the old Cambodian films that have survived. There are very few surviving films. Then one guy came up, one of the cinephiles. We were making an art exhibition as well, with posters, paintings by young Cambodians, and information about the movies. He would tell me, "No, this is incorrect," "No, the title is not right." Who are you? He was amazing. So this one was the brown-haired guy.
The other one with a hat and glasses is a very good friend of the actress Dy Saveth. She introduced him to me, saying that he was the make-up guy in the nineties, when she was going back into movies in the nineties. But she was [also] telling me that he was a big fan of movies during the previous period. But [Ouk and Lim] didn't know each other before the shooting; we made them meet each other and it was incredible to see them talking and talking. Even when we shut off the camera they would go on speaking about film, and I'd say, "No, no, no, please stop a little. We need to film this." That was very funny.
APA: At one point in the film, members of the Kon Khmer Koun Khmer collective are shown shooting a scene from a lost film. But the resulting scene they shot is not shown. Why did you decide not to show it?
DC: That's interesting because at one point in the editing, the footage was there. What they shot was there. At the end, I said, "No, we'll take it out," because once again, the idea of the film is imagination. We're dealing with this imagination thing, so sometimes when you show the images it's a little bit disappointing. The idea, I would say, is to observe the process of filmmaking, them discussing how they're going to shoot the film, and for us the audience maybe to think about the differences and similarities between what we would imagine of the real filmmaker forty years ago making his film. This kind of gaps, differences, and similarities, I wanted to play with and not really [focus] on the results.
APA: In this regard, what I really appreciate about the film is the way it avoids limiting Cambodians and Cambodian culture and history to the Khmer Rouge -- and instead points people to this rich film history.
DC: Thank you. That was very, very important for us to be set in the present time and not be too nostalgic. There is nostalgia in the film, but the film should not be just about nostalgia. The point was really to try to think about the connection, or reconnection, between the past and present. So we also had to focus on the present time, to believe and to hope -- it was kind of a bet, an act of faith -- that the past will come up from the present. Not from all images, but just focus on the present for the past to come back and then create this kind of reconnection. I guess it's attracted to the present and also of course to the future because it's dealing with young people and what they're doing today.
APA: Were you aware of the amount of sixties/seventies Cambodian film songs and music available online?
DC: It's amazing, actually, because there are a few collectors, and now I get to know some of them personally. They are amazing people who [have] collected the music for years and years and tried to find the best quality ever. To explain, in Cambodia, in the sixties and seventies, there were films but there was also a lot ofmusic, absolutely amazing music in the sixties and seventies -- kind of rock ‘n' roll-influenced, Western rock ‘n' roll music, but really mixing with very Asian, Cambodian styles, and with pure genius singing and composing the songs. It was a big discovery for me also. You have these people on YouTube, collecting this music and just distributing it on YouTube, and you can check out all the music, like a treasure [but] accessible, like on one clip.
But not many people know about this, so it has to be more known. We had to work a lot on which music we're going to use, because a lot of this music was used in the films, composed for the films. Even the cinephile told me that many people just [went] to see the film because of the music. We have lost a lot of films, but we have saved a lot of music, because they were already commercialised into vinyl. People could buy them, and then we saved much more music than films. In a way, the memory of the film sometimes is just in the music, what is left in the music. So it was very important for us to select some music and put it in the film.
APA: What do you think of all of this activity with regards to Cambodian music and its preservation/dissemination? Could we read it in connection to a new Cambodian cinema emerging?
DC: I don't know if there is a real connection because basically these people are often in America. For example, I think the guy who helped the most to collect the films is an American guy of twenty-five in lower Massachusetts. His name is Nate, and he's a good friend of mine now. We met each other through the story, of course. It was amazing to hear about this story in the beginning, because I was thinking that all the people who collected these films were more than fifty-year-old people, like the guy who moved to France. But no; the guy who has collected the most films was in lower Massachusetts, and at that time, he had been in Cambodia, just one time in his life. But he just fell in love with this culture, and he started to collect [not only] all the music he could find, but also all the films he could find.
That's an amazing world, but it's not yet really connected to creation. It's really distribution, which is already very important. It's like preserving the music, classifying the music, finding information about it, mak[ing] it accessible for the audience on the Internet. But if you speak about the now, let's say, reconstruction of Cambodian film industry, it's two very different things.
APA: I see that Rithy Panh is one of the co-producers of Golden Slumbers. Did he help you throughout the production?
DC: He helped me a lot actually, because first, he co-produced the film. But he's also very close to the Cambodian Film Commission, which helped me a lot by sending some Cambodian technicians on my film as training. So it was kind of a perfect exchange for me and for them together, and that made possible these kind of very cinematographic sequences when we were in the theatres and everything; it was really thanks to this collaboration. Outside of that, Rithy Panh also was very helpful during the shooting. I would go and meet him during the weekend and on free days, and show the footage of what we have shot already. He would say, "Oh, this is shit; this is good." It was very interesting, very hard also, but very interesting.
APA: Have you screened the film in Cambodia?
DC: We did, at the Cambodian International Film Festival, organised by the Cambodian Film Commission. It was the second edition. I showed the film in December 2011. I have to say I was very stressed because I was a little afraid of the reaction, because it's their story. I couldn't cheat. If I did something wrong, they would recognise it, and they would complain about it. Maybe I did, I don't know, but during the screening, it was just an amazing reaction and enthusiasm. It was also so moving because all the filmmakers and actors of my film were there, and at the end, they gave a standing ovation of five minutes.
For some of them, it was the first time they were telling the story of their lives; that was very, very moving. For example, the filmmaker Ly You Sreang, the one who became a taxi driver. He's a little anonymous now in Phnom Penh, because he just arrived back in Phnom Penh in 2008. He doesn't have any films to show, so for him, it was like living as an anonymous guy. Then suddenly, he became again the filmmaker he used to be, and wow, it was so moving to see that.
Since we made the film, we've showed it in difference places. One time was in Berlin. Berlin invited them from Cambodia to come, and also one very famous Cambodian filmmaker who is living in Canada, Tea Lim Kun. He's not in my film, but he came from Canada. They came from Cambodia, [and] they gathered together for one week in Berlin. It was an amazing time to be together and have this experience of being together for one week.
APA: How was the reaction from younger generations?
DC: It was very good. There were a lot of friends also. They're already aware of this question of heritage, so they were very happy. I've received a lot of email on Facebook, [from] young Cambodians that I don't know. Sometimes, they haven't seen the film; they just see the trailer. [But] they tell me that they're so happy, in a way they're so proud [that] a film about Cambodia is not just dealing with the Khmer Rouge or the sadness, the prostitution, or the corruption. Even if they haven't seen the film, it's like bringing back some kind of pride of being Cambodian. I never made this film with that purpose in mind, but I was very happy to see that it could bring enthusiasm from young people. That was the kind of reaction of the youth towards the film. The ones who saw the film when I showed it in Phnom Penh were very happy about it. They expressed that it was very important for them to see, to learn what was Cambodia [like] at the time. It's something they don't hear about so much, and it's a glory period. It's very important for them to know that Cambodia was also that.
APA: Do you hope to continue in this vein in your subsequent film projects?
DC: I don't know. But what I know is that I didn't know Cambodia before I went there in 2009, and I spent one-and-a-half years there, and many things happened: I met many people, many friends, and we started building something together. There is this group called Kon Khmer Koun Khmer that I'm very close to. Basically, my next film that I'm writing now is a feature narrative based in Cambodia, with youth in Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, now in 2012.
I don't know to what extent I will go on working with the past of Cambodia, because I also have a strong desire now to work just with the present of Cambodia. It's something very important also. You have a lot of documentaries dealing with the past and the heritage, and Golden Slumber is exactly part of it. But definitely, there are a lot of things going on just with the present time of Cambodia, so it's also very exciting.
For more information, go to Golden Slumbers' official website or Facebook page.
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