WWII Movie Filmed in Cambodia Hits Cinemas

An international movie filmed in Cambodia and inspired by a Japanese soldier who spent 30 years fighting on a Filipino island after the end of World War II has been released in cinemas nationwide
‘Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle’ by Arthur Harari. Kiripost via Anti Archive
‘Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle’ by Arthur Harari. Kiripost via Anti Archive

International action movie ‘Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle’, that was shot in three provinces in Cambodia and inspired by the true story of a Japanese officer who continued fighting in the Philippines 30 years after the end of World War II, has hit the Kingdom’s cinemas.

Directed and written by Frenchman Arthur Harari, the film is inspired by Japanese officer, Hiroo Onoda, who did not know World War II had ended and continued to fight on a Filipino island for about three decades.

The movie was filmed in Kep, Kampot and Sihanoukville and is an international co-production between France, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Cambodia.

Arthur, who was born in 1981 in Paris, told Kiripost on Thursday that he started to write the script in 2015 after being intrigued by Onoda’s story. He finished in 2017. Shooting took place in the Kingdom from December 2018 to March 2019.

“The story itself is amazing and the implications in terms of human complexity. Its relation to time and history, as well as the themes of belief, fiction and delusion, were fascinating to me. I wanted to make an adventure film, this was the basis of it all, so the subject fulfilled my expectations and I ended up living the adventure myself,” Arthur Kiripost said via email.

Japanese actor Yuya Endo plays the role of Onoda, a Japanese intelligence officer in the Imperial Army during World War II. He ended up being marooned by the Filipinos of Lubang for nearly 30 years and did not believe the war had ended.

The shooting of the film marks the first time Arthur has visited Cambodia. He said he chose Kep, Kampot and Sihanoukville as locations due to their stunning landscapes that align with the scenes he wanted to illustrate in the film.

“We chose to film there because the landscapes were exactly what we were looking for, and because we knew how welcoming the country is for foreign shootings,” he mentioned.

The two-hour and 45-minute-long film took nine months to edit and four months for post-production. Other elements, such as video production, audio production, and photography, took place before and after the first Covid-19 lockdown. It was completed in autumn 2020.

Arthur said one of the major hurdles during filming was the language barriers. “There were a lot of challenges, the most difficult one was directing a film entirely in Japanese, a language I don't speak or understand. I worked with an incredible young interpreter, Yu Shibuya, and the actors were amazing."

“I think the total final cost is around $4.5 million, which, of course, is a lot but not so much for a war/ survival film of that length,” he said.

His last key message to viewers is, “I hope the film touches the people watching it regardless of their nationalities or cultural background. I hope it is universal and that it can move people in a deep and lasting way, pushing them to think, question and feel things even after the screening. That the characters and the journey will keep being present in their memories, as if in a way, they really lived the experience in their lives.”

The film is made up of a cast of Japanese and Filipino characters, with many Cambodian extras featuring in the film.

French-Cambodian director Davy Chou, line producer and co-producer, told Kiripost that the film was made thanks to a lot of Cambodian crew and featured some Cambodian-based Japanese and Filipinos as extras. He also welcomed constructive feedback from viewers of the film, which was produced by Cambodian production company Anti-Archive.

“The film was entirely shot in Cambodia, in Kep, Kampot and Sihanoukville, during three months at the end of 2018. So, there are lot of landscapes and settings that might feel familiar to Cambodian audiences,” Davy said,

“Yet, the film will immerse you deeply in its unique universe and timeline. For all these reasons, it is very special for us to be able to share it here in creating a sustainable and dynamic film industry in the country.”

The film was released in Cambodian cinemas on October 25.