A Cambodian film production company created in January 2014 by Davy Chou, Steve Chen, and Kavich Neang. In 2016 it welcomed its fourth partner, Park Sungho. Anti-Archive produces and co-produces fiction and documentary films by the emerging, new generation of Cambodian filmmakers, as well as films by international, independent directors shooting in Cambodia. Deliberately provocative, the name Anti-Archive invites one to rethink the relationship of films and filmmakers with the past and history.
Written by Aki Kung, translated by Francisco Lo
In order to understand Cambodian cinema, one cannot avoid taking the country’s history into context. After colonisation by the French and occupation in the hands of the Japanese, Cambodia finally declared its independence in the early 1950s. As the turmoil of the Vietnam War spilled over the region in the late 1960s, the country’s political powers began to split, leading to a grueling period of civil war. Constitutional monarchy was overturned in the early 1970s as the Khmer Rouge rose to power by exploiting the king’s appeal for public support and occupied Phnom Penh in April of 1975. The Khmer Rouge was also responsible for the genocide of two millions of its own citizens, which was approximately a quarter of Cambodia’s population at the time.
The Khmer Rouge fell completely in the late 1990s. Cambodian society and its political situation gradually stabilised in the next decade or so. Meanwhile, Phnom Penh has become a burgeoning city where skyscrapers are sprouting and foreign capital is pouring in. Its film industry has also seen signs of recovery in recent years, as distributors set their sights on getting a piece of the market. On the other hand, many foreign filmmakers would come to shoot in Cambodia, though a good number of them are preoccupied with their orientalist view of Southeast Asia. Without adequate support, local filmmakers largely rely on making their films independently. Anti-Archive’s founders Davy Chou and Steve Chen met in Phnom Penh in 2009 while they were shooting their own respective projects. Together with Kavich Neang, the three recognised the needs of and difficulties faced by this generation of filmmakers. Hence they formed this production company, in hopes of assisting young and aspiring filmmakers, taking their films to the rest of the world. Besides, the company will also assist foreign independent filmmakers shooting in the country.
In this festival, we have selected three feature films and three short films released by Anti-Archive in recent years. They are all concerned with the history and development of Cambodia. Waxing Moon documents the making of a sculpture that is meant to be the first public memorial of the Khmer Rouge genocide, and the controversy that follows. It explores the meaning of art to the people who have lived through trauma and suffering. Turn Left Turn Right and DREAM LAND both feature stories of young women, depicting a new generation of Cambodians’ dilemma between modernity and tradition in the midst of urban development. As for the three short films, they precisely chronicle the past, present and future of several Phnom Penh characters. These films are the fruits of collaboration between the members of Anti-Archive and other young filmmakers—its overseas members find foreign funds for its projects while members will serve as producers for each other’s films. For example, Kavich Neang has acted in Davy Chou’s Cambodia 2099; Steve Chen and Douglas Seok is the director of cinematography for each other’s feature film. Their emphasis on society and history—with vision and determination to forge a path in a new world in spite of their limitation—can be seen as a reference or model for local filmmakers.