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Singapore: Cambodia’s Rithy Panh Remains Tireless Campaigner

Cambodian master director Rithy Panh’s is not optimistic about the chances of his latest film “Graves Without A Name” doing well at the Oscars. It is Cambodia’s contender in the foreign language category.

“There is very little possibility. We have had screenings here and there, but the Oscar campaign costs more than my film. Most of the voters are from the U.S. and we don’t have the financial support to screen on the East coast and the West coast, and give people cocktails,” said Panh.

Panh has been a tireless cinematic chronicler of the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s. His 2013 film “The Missing Picture” scored an Oscar nomination. “First They Killed My Father,” produced by Panh and directed by Angelina Jolie, was Cambodia’s entry to the Oscars last year, but did not secure a nomination.

Panh says that though the current generation is post-Fascist, it is important that people don’t forget the past. “History repeats itself,” says Panh. “The language of world leaders today sounds just like Fascism.”

Panh’s next project will be about what he describes as “extreme violence.” “People talk about bombs and guns, but nobody tells you how to live after this destruction. Killing doesn’t end today or tomorrow, it can continue 20 years later,” he said. Panh will explore the trauma that people go through in the wake of violence.

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Panh says that the current state of Cambodian cinema does not leave much room for local films. It is difficult to find screen space for independent films because of the large number of releases from the Hollywood studio majors. “This is a big problem for us,” Panh says. “I dream about the diversity of cinema with the digital formats. Digital is very good but sometimes it destroys everything around it.”

Panh received the Singapore International Film Festival’s honorary award on Saturday. “Graves Without A Name” played at the festival. Panh delivers a masterclass on Sunday.

“I’m happy to receive this honor from the Singapore Film Festival,” said Panh. “It is great to have this kind of festival in the ASEAN region. It is a great place that supports cinema.”

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