Cinema has always been a great way to gain some insight to the lives of the locals of different countries. There is so much one can learn by seeing what’s on screen. It sometimes helps the viewers to understand and experience the living ways of the locals and the cultural dos and don’ts through films. There are movies that can prepare you for what you can expect to see when you actually explore the city or place in person.
-By Priyanka Naik
Through the course of time, there are a number of different movies that exist and feature Cambodia. I have noted down a list of 5 smashing movies that describe and tell viewers about Cambodia in either its raw, disturbing form of the 70s or its more subtle contemporary form of today:
Year Zero – The Silent Death of Cambodia
This documentary provides a peek into the darkest period that Cambodia has ever seen. The movie depicts the time between 1975 and 1978, when Khmer Rouge ruled the country, and were responsible for ripping apart the actual fabric of life itself. This was when the USA bombed Cambodia in the name of collateral damage and follows the incessant killings of almost 2 million Cambodians in a mere span of two years. The documentary can be difficult to digest, as it portrays inhuman acts that were conducted. It’s a tragedy no doubt, but I still recommend a watch. This will help you understand what this country has had to suffer and the circumstances they have had to overcome to rise to what they are today.
Trivia– The actual number killed during the Khmer Rouge is still unknown. Some people think the number is around 1.7 million, which was about a quarter of the population at the time, while others speculate that it is closer to 3.4 million, or half of the population of Cambodia.
The Killing Fields
This one’s not precisely a documentary, but is inspired by true events, again featuring in its story a time of great suffering and tragedy. If you have seen movies like Blood Diamond (based on Africa diamond smuggling business) or Earth (remember Aamir Khan and Nandita Das?) and enjoyed either, there is a higher chance this may be to your liking too. An incredible depiction of how a country is ravaged of its roots and resources due to war, the story is about an American journalist who arrives in Cambodia just as the Khmer Rouge rule is beginning to cover the political scape and forms a unique bond with his Cambodian counter-part. Apart from the stupendous direction, this one’s a must watch for the beauty of human connection and the persistent pull of one’s survival instinct.
Trivia: Choeung Ek, the most infamous killing field, still has cloth, bones and teeth that unearth themselves from their graves during monsoon season.
I actually watched this movie by chance, but then I liked it so much that I’ve now seen it multiple times. I gave this movie a go because of my fascination with the big cats. However, the story is quite heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time. It’s about two tiger cubs who are separated due to human interference. It then dwells around their personal journeys into adulthood and the manner in which the find their way back home and reunite. I can say that the movie’s cinematography is truly amazing, as the temple ruins and the jungle landscape are depicted to perfection. This film also shows the absolutely lovely connection that the cubs share, which at last becomes the reason of their liberation and freedom. A satisfactory ending!
Trivia: Tigers have been declared ‘functionally extinct’ in Cambodia, and in 2016, the Cambodian government approved a plan to reintroduce the creatures into the Mondulkiri protected forest in the far of east the country.
Same Same But Different
This movie is based on an autobiographical magazine article by Benjamin Prüfer, which was later published into a novel in 2007. The film features the much acclaimed ‘The Reader’ star David Kroff as the male lead – a German backpacker who is still in high school, visits Cambodia and promptly falls in love with this young saloon girl he meets at a club. Despite many odds, including that the lead female is HIV positive, the two overcome their star-crossed fates to come together. It’s a bittersweet story-line that reduces every romantic at heart to tears, only to cheer for the devotion the male lead is determined to project. It shows the epitome of love a man can have.
Trivia: After the first case of HIV was detected in Cambodia in 1991, the prevalence of infection increased steadily to a high of 2 percent in 1998. However, extraordinary HIV prevention and control efforts exerted by the Royal Government of Cambodia and its partners have helped to reduce the spread of HIV, so much so that in 2014, HIV prevalence was reduced to 0.4 percent.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Released in the year 2001, it’s difficult to forget the gorgeous woman performing her acrobatic stunts in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Angelina Jolie was completely one with her role, all the way from her tightly scrunched braid down to the sole of her black boots. Hard to move your eyes away from the screen, she did face a tough competition in Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world and a World Heritage Site. It shows the Cambodian temple complex, where Croft retrieved the half of the triangular MacGuffin, which is at Siem Reap in Cambodia, as well as Phnom Bakheng, a hill topped by a Hindu temple (since having turned into a Buddhist centre). Even the locals have agreed that the movie was shot brilliantly as it portrayed beautiful views of the temple. It can be said that this was the movie that put Cambodia back on the map for tourism. Do watch this movie for the superb acting done by Angelina Jolie, the thrills and of course for the breathtaking landscapes of Cambodia. The movie will make you want to visit this country!
Trivia: The population of the city where the temple was built, Angkor, may have been over 1 million people, making it the largest city in the world until the Industrial Revolution.
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About The Author
Priyanka believes life is an endless collection of new experiences, with a story born every moment. Every time one sets eyes on something new or reviews something with a fresh view, the narrative changes. A marketing & PR professional, she strives to live and share her experiences with food, travel and dance, by penning down her stories, and relive those priceless moments.