Film Festival’s Return Aims to Revitalize Cinema Industry

The Cambodia International Film Festival returns this summer and is hoping to breath new life into the nation’s industry after the pandemic caused movie theaters to shutter nationwide.
Cambodia International Film Festival in Siem Reap in 2020. Picture: CIFF/Vann Channarong
Cambodia International Film Festival in Siem Reap in 2020. Picture: CIFF/Vann Channarong

Cambodia's biggest film event is set to make a return this summer, with the aim of rebooting the cinema industry after a two-year pandemic-driven hiatus.

Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF), the country's largest international film and cultural event, started in 2010. It acts as a catalyst for the film sector, attracting more than 20,000 participants each year. CIFF says it acts as a bridge between Cambodia and the world through the universal language of film and culture.

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After nearly two years of health measures aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus, the government began lifting Covid-19 restrictions late last year. Movie theatres, which were hit hard, also started to slowly open. However, they were hit by staff shortages and slow ticket sales.

Cambodia International Film Festival 2020 in Siem Reap. Picture: CIFF
Cambodia International Film Festival 2020 in Siem Reap. Picture: CIFF

The 11th edition of CIFF runs from June 28 to July 3 and will be celebrated in more than 10 venues around Phnom Penh. This includes Chaktomuk Conference Hall, Major Cineplex, Legend Cinema, Rosewood Hotel, Bophana Center, French Institute, Java Creative, and Factory Phnom Penh.

“The last two years have been hard for the entire creative sector, for artists and cultural organizations. We want to acknowledge this and invite more support for all,” said Cedric Eloy, Director of CIFF, in a press release.

“Today, it is our hope, and it would be our greatest pleasure, that this CIFF brings together again all creative forces and awakens the joy of the big silver screen. The 11th edition will play a vital role in kick-starting the engine of the cinema industry once again.”

Cinema culture has been deeply rooted in Cambodian society since the 1950s and became a celebrated cultural activity in the 1960s and early 1970s, according to Sopheap Chea, Director of Bophana Center.

She added that although cinema was destroyed during the Khmer Rouge, young people now like to discover the art of filmmaking and to express themselves through motion pictures.

“The pandemic of Covid-19 has caused a huge and substantial impact on this important culture in Cambodia and also across the world. In Cambodia, cinema and cultural activities were closed and later restricted for almost two years,” Sopheap said.

CIFF’s history started 12 years ago at a time when the nation’s film industry was just restarting. Bophana Center was the only film organization and creator of the Cambodia Film Commission, said Eloy.

“We believe that a film festival was an essential tool to witness the progress of the industry and develop education through film. From that point, it led to the opening of modern theaters, the inspiration of hundreds of young Cambodians to be involved in films, and a direct impact on attracting foreign films to Cambodia,” said Eloy.