"Our generation has been working on things to fix and heal
SOTHEA INES, 25, FILMMAKER AND RECENT WINNER OF TROPFEST SOUTHEAST ASIA, 2014
Sothea Ines, 25 years old, holds a bright future in the world of cinema. The young filmmaker recently won the top prize at Tropfest Southeast Asia, an international film festival in Malaysia for her short film, “Rice”. The film is centered around five boys living at a camp during the Khmer Rouge regime. The power of this short film is that it within 7 minutes she is able to tell a hauntingly sad and common story of hunger and desperation through the eyes of the boys who risk their lives for a few grains of rice, all without anyone speaking a single word. The whimsical music in the background, the only sound in the film, is a striking juxtaposition to the harsh realities of starvation and fear the boys face during the regime.
Sothea Ines was born in 1989 in Phnom Penh, many years after the Khmer Rouge era. She went to DarakDevi High School and continued her studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) in the Department of Media and Communication (DMC). She graduated from the DMC program in 2013. I interviewed Sothea to understand her interest in exploring the past and where she would like to see the future of filmmaking in Cambodia.
Q. What was it like growing up in Cambodia? What were some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to be where you are today?
A. It was okay. My father works as car driver for an NGO and my mother was a house wife. I had to work while studying. I wasn't thinking to be filmmaker since I was young because there wasn't any opportunity to access those tools.
Q. What sparked your interest in filmmaking? Why did you choose filmmaking to express yourself?
A. While still in year three in Department of Media and Communication, I took on part-time job writing a TV drama series. I enjoyed it so much that I continued as a writer on the next two series and my ambition changed. Bitten by the bug of storytelling, a strong desire to make films to tell the stories I wrote emerged. RICE is my foray into independent film production; the first film I have written, directed and produced.
Q. “Rice" is a silent film. Why did you choose to make the film in this genre?
A. As it’s shown in the film, Cambodia was in a time of silence and darkness during the Khmer Rouge. I have an inspiring and very encouraging mentor who keeps telling me to think that every frame count and it should be with intention.
Q. Your film “Rice” captures the struggles of starvation during the Khmer Rouge. How did you learn about the Khmer Rouge?
A. Since I was young my parents always keep telling me that I’m so lucky to be born in this time. I must say I was pretty confused emotionally while making the film, swinging between elation and trepidation. Looking back I am very surprised and pleased at myself for having pulled it off to an extent where everyone involved can be proud.
Lots of films have been made on the horrors and tragedies of the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia. I wanted to make a different story within that theme. I have done research by interviewing the victims who were in the children’s camp in that regime. All the events in the film are based on true people’s lives. I would like to thank to Bophana Centre and Film department that gave me the footage and has made “Rice” to be more realistic.
Q. Out of hundreds of submissions from around the world and 12 finalists, you were awarded the top prize at TROPFEST Southeast Asia for your film. What do you plan to do with the award?
A. I will donate $1,000 USD to Taramana Centre where I cast children to work on, some to my parents, some to myself and the rest I'll make a film fund which will create the opportunity for others to make films in Cambodia.
Q. So many artists and films perished under the Khmer Rouge. Filmmaking has only recently made a revival. Where would you like to see Cambodia’s film industry in 10 years and what will it take to get there?
A. I would like to see the Cambodian film industry enter more international film festivals and markets. Rithy Panh’s Oscar nomination for the Missing Picture will help to clear that path for Khmer filmmakers. To get there, the story has to be great and universal and made well enough.
Q. You’ve been able to build a successful career at a young age. What advice would you have for young people who may be struggling but want to follow a similar career path?
A. Well, make your script great and believe in it. Be brave to give yourself courage to try. When there is a wall go around and look for a way; because there must be a way.
Watch Sothea's short film "Rice" below (7 mins).
For more information on Tropfest visit: http://tropfest.com/sea/
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