New Film to Explore ‘Clash’ Between Development and Youth

On Friday, French-Cambodian filmmaker Davy Chou was, as he explained, rather frantic.

With two weeks left before he starts shooting his first feature, “Diamond Island,” he was invited to fly to Italy to pitch the project to producers during the Torino Film Festival.

Davy Chou, left, speaks with his casting assistant, Sann Mengleang, at the Institut Francais in Phnom Penh on Friday. (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)
Davy Chou, left, speaks with his casting assistant, Sann Mengleang, at the Institut Francais in Phnom Penh on Friday. (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)

And Mr. Chou could not refuse. While the funds he has raised so far are sufficient to cover the costs of filming, additional money will be needed for post-production.

“Diamond Island” is a modern Cambodian tale, the 32-year-old filmmaker explained. “It’s the story of Bora, a young man who leaves his province to come work as a construction worker on Diamond Is­land,” he said.

“He eventually finds his brother Solei, who had disappeared five years earlier.”

“If there is one issue that keeps surfacing in the film, one question raised, it’s the matter of the clash between Cambodia shifting into a certain modernity, and youth.

Clash meaning how young people react to this, their relationship with change, their aspirations, and whether or not they want to be part of it,” he said.

To best represent today’s youth, Mr. Chou decided to eschew professional actors in favor of young people working in the environments he will portray in the film.

So in January, he started auditioning hundreds of young people at factories, restaurants, construction sites and cultural events.

One of them, who will play the lead role in the film, was 19-year-old Nuon Sobon, whose usual work consists of finding clients for a long-distance taxi driver.

Artist Nov Cheanick and kickboxer Hem Sa­ran will play his brothers.

About a dozen other people will play secondary roles, Mr. Chou said. “It’s rather rock ’n’ roll to direct, but it’s quite fun.”

Born in France in 1983, Mr. Chou discovered in his teens that his grandfather Van Chann Pheap Yun had been one of Cambodia’s lead­­ing film producers in the 1960s.

He then studied business in college with the goal of becoming a filmmaker. In 2011, he made “Gold­en Slumbers,” a feature-length doc­u­mentary about Cambodian cinema in the 1960s.

Screened at top film festivals around the world, the movie earned Mr. Chou several international awards.

Last year, his short film “Cam­bodia 2099” was presented at the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes and at more than a dozen other film festivals across Europe and Asia.

“Diamond Island,” which is sched­uled to begin shooting in Phnom Penh on December 7, is set to be completed late next year, he said. With a Cambodian cast, it will be shot in Khmer and presented with English and French subtitles.

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