Cambodia Enters ‘The Last Reel’ as 2016 Oscars Contender

Cambodia has selected “The Last Reel” as its entry to the 88th Academy Awards Foreign Language Film category, making debut director Kulikar Sotho the first female filmmaker forwarded as the country’s contender at the Oscars.

Released in local theaters this month, “The Last Reel” follows a young woman (Ma Rynet) who discovers an old, incomplete film starring her mother (Dy Saveth). While tracking down a missing reel, she is forced to confront her family’s past, buried with the country’s dark history.

Cambodian Oscar Selection Committee chairwoman Mariam Arthur, left, and director Kulikar Sotho, center, pose in Phnom Penh before shipping “The Last Reel” to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, on Saturday. (Min Chiv)
Cambodian Oscar Selection Committee chairwoman Mariam Arthur, left, and director Kulikar Sotho, center, pose in Phnom Penh before shipping “The Last Reel” to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, on Saturday. (Min Chiv)

“I’m very proud that I am one of the Cambodians that can contribute this prestige to my country,” Ms. Sotho said in an interview Sunday. “It’s my first film as a director and it’s very well received. It’s a very encouraging surprise.”

The Cambodia Oscar Selection Committee, the official body tasked with submitting films to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, received two nominees this year, “The Last Reel” and Chhay Bora’s “3.50.” The committee voted for Ms. Sotho’s 104-minute drama on Wednesday.

“The committee members felt that this film is a good representation of Cambodian films and that it would have a good chance of being nominated and winning an Oscar,” committee chairwoman Mariam Arthur said Sunday.

The selection committee did not submit a film last year. In 2012, it put forward Mr. Bora’s “Lost Loves” and in 2013 Rithy Panh’s “The Missing Picture.”

Ms. Sotho is the first female Cambodian director to have a film submitted to the competition.

“It’s always very difficult for women in every subject in a country primarily dominated by males, but it’s the kind of thing that you should not make as an obstacle,” said the 41-year-old director, who made a name for herself while working as a line producer for regional production company Hanuman Films.

“There are other Cambodian female directors that haven’t had that opportunity yet,” Ms. Arthur said. “The film industry in Cambodia is developing very fast.”

The submission comes after “The Last Reel” won a string of awards over the past year, including at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy.

The film will now be considered for the Oscars’ shortlist, expected to be announced in December.

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