Friday, March 5, 2010

Reggae on film

A diversion from the norm tonight with a visit to Meta House, soon to move to new premises I might add, to watch a film about reggae. I haven't mentioned the Meta House schedule for this month as there isn't much that grabs my attention (aside from The Tenth Dancer on Sunday 28th) except this 1977 hour-long documentary called Roots Rock Reggae, which begins at 7pm. I was a big reggae fan in the 70s and 80s (I still am), primarily in awe of Steel Pulse, who I saw at Cheltenham Town Hall in 1978 and I was hooked, but also of iconic figures such as Bob Marley, and of course British reggae bands like Aswad, Black Roots and The Natural-Ites. There are many more, too numerous to mention. Most of my reggae collection is on vinyl, housed in cardboard boxes in my spare bedroom. Does anyone have access to a spare vinyl record-player?
Tomorrow and Sunday, I'll be at Olympic Stadium to catch the football. Tomorrow is the 3rd place play-off in the Hun Sen Cup between Naga and Preah Khan, whilst the final will happen on Sunday at 3pm between Phnom Penh Crown and the Army. Come on the boys with the big boots and guns - hopefully not on the pitch of course. And on Sunday night at the FCC, is the book launch for Carrying Cambodia, a new photographic essay on the loads you find being transported along Cambodia's roads. I often see the most ridiculously overloaded motos, trucks and trailers but never seem to have my camera with me to record it. Obviously Conor Wall and Hans Kemp did.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Meta on the move

Contemporary dancer Yon Davy at a recent Meta House performance
I've finally managed to find out where Meta House are moving to. The exhibition space and rooftop movie center, that has been located next to Wat Botum for the last three years, is moving to a more spacious home opposite the Phnom Penh Center and next to The Building at the end of April. It'll be bigger and better, with a cafe on-site. I look forward to it. This month at Meta House there's a real eclectic series of events with the highlight for me being the Sunday 21st dance night when Yon Davy presents her first choreography piece, Action Wave. Davy has been involved in the trio of recent contemporary dance performances at Meta House over the last couple of months but this time she's going it alone, albeit with two fellow dancers Yon Chantha and Choun Sovannary. It begins at 7pm. Davy, who began with Sovanna Phum and has danced in Thailand and Sweden, will also be involved in this month's Dansez Roam! performances too. Busy girl.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

What a feeling

Sadness was a key element of Moving into Feeling at Meta House. LtoR: Marine Ky, Mom and Yon Davy.
A third and final contemporary dance performance at Meta House took place last night in front of a full house. All three pieces of work are expected to be included in a new show called The Sound of Rice to be performed in early April. Last night's Moving into Feeling piece explored sound and emotions, with Mom and Yon Davy again giving us their own interpretation of the work, aided by coach Bob Ruijzendaal and artist Marine Ky. The sad sections were very sad and Davy remarked after the show that having to demonstrate all the different emotions left her "feeling a bit crazy in her head." Incidentally, Yon Davy will present her first independent choreography work at Meta House on Sunday 21 February.
Mom (red top) using some of her classical training in her movements
One of my favourite noodle girls, Vey (in yellow) with a colleague. Vey and Vanny work at the noodle shop on the corner of the road leading to Meta House, opposite Wat Botum.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Homage to a friendship

Svay Ken, his wife Tith Yun and Ingrid Muan captured on canvas
Whilst at Meta House last night I had my first look at their latest display of paintings, which
is a re-hanging of an exhibition - A Good Friend is Hard to Find - that was first shown at the Reyum Gallery in January 2006. The exhibits are paintings by Khmer artist Svay Ken and were his tribute to a friendship he enjoyed with Ingrid Muan, the co-founder of the Reyum Institute who died a year before the initial exhibition. Svay Ken himself passed away in December 2008 aged 76. There are about 30 paintings in the main ground floor display and another dozen smaller portraits on the first floor. Svay Ken's contemporary, self-taught style is very distinctive and his work eagerly sought-after.
A portrait of Svay Ken's wife Tith Yun
Krom Ngoy, a musician and author, known as the Father of Khmer Poetry
Some of the 30 or so Svay Ken paintings on display
A view of one of Svay Ken's own exhibitionsAnother one of the artists' exhibitions recorded on canvas
Svay Ken (right) and Ingrid Muan are interviewed by journalist Seth Mydans in 2001

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

The sound of rice

Mom and Davy during their performance last night
Mom and Davy are two of the new generation of Cambodian dancers who are branching out into contemporary dance whilst still retaining elements of their classical dance background and training in their work. Last night, accompanied by musician Leng Sakkona, they performed a new piece of work, 'How do you sound', at Meta House to an appreciative audience. Rice was the central component alongwith intimate sounds in a 20-minute performance. Next Saturday 16th they will perform another new piece, 'Moving into feeling.' Both works are in collaboration with art director Bob Ruijzendaal.
Davy, Leng Sakkona and Mom create their own sound of rice at Meta House

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's all about dance

Performers from the Khmer Arts Ensemble at practice
There's a lot of dance stuff taking place this year, whether its classical, contemporary and a combination of both. When I hear about it, you'll know too. Currently in town are a collective from Singapore and beyond under the auspices of the Flying Circus Project, hosted by Amrita Performing Arts. They're in Phnom Penh at the moment but will be going up to Siem Reap in a day or two. Not sure if the collaboration with local artists like Belle will translate into a public performance anywhere. Meanwhile Meta House will be hosting a couple of Saturday night dance pieces directed by Bob Ruijzendaal over the next two weekends. On 9 January, Leng Sakkona will collaborate with Mom and Davy for an experimental piece linked to sounds and on 16 January, Mom, Davy and Sopheap will present a revision of a show they performed a few weeks ago at the same venue. Later in the year Amrita will be taking their Khmeropedies II project to Hong Kong, Singapore, New York and New Haven. Created by Emmanuèle Phuon, it has elements of classical court dance and contemporary movements and will involve such luminaries as Belle, Sam Sathya and Chey Chankethya. Also the Khmer Arts Ensemble under the tutelage of Sophiline Cheam Shapiro will be putting on classical shows in Cambodia before heading over to the United States later in the year for a major tour.
A brand new book dedicated to dance in Cambodia is just out. Beyond the Apsara – Celebrating Dance in Cambodia was co-edited by Stephanie Burridge and Fred Frumberg of Amrita and published by Routledge India. With ten chapters by established international practitioners and 25 essays written by a wide range of Cambodian dancers, the book honors the many efforts to revitalize Cambodian dance, as well as while expressing the hopes and fears of today’s generation of Cambodian dancers. The launch took place at the World Dance Alliance conference in New Delhi at the end of November. Additional launches are scheduled in Singapore and Phnom Penh early this year. 242 pages and retailing at just under $100. A peek at the contents reveals essays from HRH Princess Buppha Devi, Toni Shapiro-Phim, Hun Pen, Sophiline Cheam Shapiro and others. And Belle is on the front cover photo.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sophoin on film

Following on from the YouTube video below, here's another one, filmed on the same night as the Meta House screening of The Red Sense. This time it's my very good friend Sophoin, giving her own thoughts on the film, in response to questions by yours truly. I only found these videos today, hence the delay in passing them on. Enjoy.

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YouTube expose

A few months ago now, Meta House screened the movie by Tim Pek, The Red Sense, for the first time in Phnom Penh. The film's lead actor Rithy Dourng came over for the screening and in this YouTube video that I've just seen for the first time, Rithy answers some questions and there's a very short guest appearance by none other than myself. Make sure you've eaten before watching my energetic hand-waving.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Look at them

Tonight's performers at the Q&A: LtoR; Setpheap, Mom and Davy
A room full of the great and good of Cambodian dance at Meta House tonight watched a 25-minute piece of contemporary dance by three artists, under the tutelage of director Bob Ruijzendaal. Yon Davy, Mom (aka Pumtheatra Chenda) and Sorn Setpheap gave us their own interpretation of a piece called How Do You Move/What Moves You, no storyline, just a mix of classical and contemporary movements that continues to break new ground for these Cambodian artists. All three performers are part of a collective known as New Cambodian Artists (NCA) and the group will perform two more new pieces in January at Meta House before bringing us the follow up to Look At Us Now, which debuted in May and the video of which was also shown this evening, after a brief Q&A with the dancers and director. Davy and Mom were trained in the classics of Cambodian ballet at the Royal University whilst Setpheap's background was in visual arts and the idea to mix and match artists and influences worked well for me. In the audience - the performance space at Meta House was pitifully small and cramped and my viewing was obscured for much of the show - were contemporary dancer Belle, just back from a gig in India, director Fred Frumberg, Toni Shapiro-Phim and a host of other dancers. Find out more about NCA here.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Never before

One of the images from the S-21 photo archive
Tonight at Meta House (7pm), I will be hosting a double-bill of mid-1990s documentaries on a photography theme, both films never having been seen before in Cambodia. The first is Secrets of S-21: Legacy of a Cambodian Prison, a half-hour BBC production from 1996 in which two American photographers, Doug Niven and Chris Riley, painstakingly piece together the details of the murders that took place at S-21 through thousands of photos left behind when the prison was evacuated. The photos and interviews with former prison guards and prisoners reveal a world built on power, fear, and total disregard for human life and dignity. This is still a relevant documentary more than a decade after it was made and so relevant to the KR trials taking place right now. In the second half-hour film, veteran Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths, in a film called The Shoot: Cambodian Odyssey, returns to Cambodia to talk about his experiences in the area but also of his approach to photojournalism. This documentary was filmed in 1996 by director Richard Traylor-Smith for the BBC. Griffiths died in March 2008. A third, short film by Touch Yinmony called My Father's Teaching will also be shown tonight.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Seeing the city

Inside the main Railway Station building, constructed in 1932 but now lifeless
Last night's Van Molyvann evening at Meta House was jam-packed like I've never seen it before. You couldn't have squeezed another sardine in the place. The reason was two-fold: the topic of New Khmer Architecture is resonating with many who are afraid that the uniqueness of the buildings from the 1950s and 60s will be lost in the head-long race for construction that's happening in Phnom Penh now; and the architecture students from Mekong University were out in force, about 60 of them by my count. Nico Mesterharm's 20-minute film Concrete Visions got an airing as did a talk and slideshow from Bill Greaves, founder of The Van Molyvann Project, who are dedicated to documenting his work in detail.
The facade of the now defunct Hotel Manolis, directly opposite the main Post Office
I spent most of this morning in a tuk-tuk circling around the city visiting some of its major buildings as part of a new tour I'm putting together to tell the story of Phnom Penh through its buildings. So we began at Wat Phnom for obvious reasons and carried on to locations such as the Post Office, Railway Station, French Embassy, La Bibliotheque, Molyvann's White Building and the Central Market. My guide was one of Hanuman's best city guides, Sok Chamroeun, and his depth of knowledge made it a thoroughly compelling, and different from the normal city tour. We are including it in our tour offerings for the new high season.
Decoration around the facade of La Bibliotheque, the city's National Library
Building D at Lycee Preah Sisowath, the city's best high school for many years. My guide used to live in this building as a boarder.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

August highlights

A tourist looks at some of the photo images found in Secrets of S-21, to be screened at Meta House on 27th August
A quick look at the highlights as I view them, to be seen at Meta House in Phnom Penh this month. I'm involved in two film nights, starting this Saturday (8 August) when I present Aki Ra's Boys, the story of a young Cambodian landmine survivor Boreak, in a double-bill with Ian White's UXO in Laos. Then on Thursday 27th I will screen two documentaries from the 1990s, Secrets of S-21 and Cambodian Odyssey, both with photography as their main element. In between you can see Skye Fitzgerald's Bombhunters on Sunday 9th, the launch of the Vann Molyvann Project on Tuesday 18th and a look at evictions in Cambodia on Saturday 22nd. There's a lot more besides. One exhibition that you won't be seeing is the Miss Landmine Cambodia 2009 show which was due to open this coming Friday. The Cambodian government have pulled the plug on the competition being held here in Cambodia, including a photo exhibition of the 20 Khmer female contestants, though it will probably continue online.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Next month at Meta

Boreak, one of Aki Ra's Boys
So you can put the dates in your diary for August, I will be presenting three documentaries at Meta House next month. The first will be on Saturday 8th, when the hour-long Aki Ra's Boys will be shown in Cambodia for the first time. Filmed in 2007 by the team of James Leong & Lynn Lee, it deals with the scourge of landmines and the effects on the handicapped children who live in the home of Aki Ra, the man who has demined swathes of Cambodia by hand and who runs the landmine museum near Banteay Srei. It was very sad to hear that Aki Ra's wife Hourt unexpectedly died a few months ago, though I believe he's now remarried and continues in his demining work and providing a home for handicapped orphans.
The second film night will be on Thursday 13th with a double-bill of documentaries on a photography theme. The first is Secrets of S-21: Legacy of a Cambodian Prison, a half-hour BBC production from 1996 in which two American photographers, Doug Niven and Chris Riley, painstakingly piece together the details of the genocide that took place at S-21 through thousands of photos left behind when the prison was evacuated. The photos and interviews with former prison guards and prisoners reveal a world built on power, fear, and total disregard for human life and dignity. This is still a relevant documentary more than a decade after it was made and so relevant to the KR trials taking place right now. In the second half-hour film, veteran Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths (pictured), in a film called The Shoot: Cambodian Odyssey, returns to Cambodia to talk about his experiences in the area but also of his approach to photojournalism. This documentary was filmed in 1996 by director Richard Traylor-Smith for the BBC. Griffiths died in March 2008.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Don't miss it

Li-Da Kruger (left) and a potential mother, from Belonging
Tonight, 7pm at Meta House, next to Wat Botum in Phnom Penh, I'll be presenting two documentaries about the return of two women to find their family roots, their past, their heritage here in Cambodia. Belonging will give Li-Da Kruger, adopted as a baby and whisked off to the UK, a chance to find out more about her family background. Read more here. New Year Baby, received great acclaim on its release and rightly so as Socheata Poeuv returns to unlock secrets she never dreamed existed. More here.
Film poster for New Year Baby

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Friday, July 3, 2009

I don't get it

Pol Pot Needs You byChhan Nawath

Art is down to personal taste and much of the so-called modern or contemporary art leaves me cold and uninspired. Though I fully accept that what I find meaningless, will set the pulse racing for others. That's what art is all about I suppose, it raises questions, sometimes without answers, it frustrates, it arouses passion, it goads us into decisions about what we like and don't like. So tonight's Global Hybrid opening exhibition at Meta House did just that. It frustrated me, it goaded me and in the main, it failed to inspire me. But I could hear from others that they found it riveting. Each to their own. The three pieces of art that I did like will be pictured here when I can get my blog working properly again. The prices ranged from $350 up to $1,000 amongst the 15+ artists on show, a mix of Khmer and USA-based artists who all presented their view of collaboration across a borderless community. An interesting concept but one which I didn't really feel the artists had made me sit and take notice of their work. The exhibition lasts until 2 August. Don't take my word for it, get along and form your own opinion. Another photographic exhibition is taking place Friday night at Java Cafe with the Asia Motion Agency exhibiting 'Change - the boat goes, the pontoon stays'. Included amongst the exhibitors is my pal Eric de Vries, who'll be back in town for a night or two.

Saving Khmer wildlife by US-based artist Tom Tor The two sides of female artist Ouer Sokuntevy

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Cambodian premiere

Tonight's film, that we kept under wraps for safety reasons before the screening, seemed to go down well with the invited packed crowd at Meta House. Finding Face was given its Cambodian premiere having only had its first ever showing in Geneva in March. The safety aspect related to the family, who are still living in Cambodia, of the film's main subject, the singer Tat Marina, who was disfigured by an acid attack in 1999. The attack on Marina signalled a spate of copycat attacks which still continue today. As for Marina, she is rebuilding her life in America and that was the heart-warming part of an otherwise at times sombre film that highlights a culture of impunity and lack of justice for victims that shows no sign of dissipating. Directors Skye Fitzgerald and Patti Duncan did a good job of telling the Marina story without over-egging or sensationalizing it. Read more here.

For the month of July, Meta House will present its usual eclectic mix of film screenings, discussions and a brand new Global Hybrid exhibition from the 2nd, with works from Khmer and US-based artists, such as Ouer Sokuntevy, Leang Seckon and Stephane Janin. My pick of the film screenings start with the evening when I will present a double-bill of Belonging and New Year Baby on Friday 10th at 7pm, in which two women return to find their roots in Cambodia. It will be the first showing of the Tamara Gordon-directed documentary Belonging here in Cambodia, the story of Li-Da Kruger, who left Phnom Penh as a baby and who returns to find the truth about her past. More here. This Friday, 3rd, Out of the Poison Tree - the return of Thida Butt Mam to the country of her birth - gets another screening, alongwith Kampuchea Death & Rebirth, a film shot after the Khmer Rouge left the city in 1979. On Thursday 9th a night of poetry, music and film includes the female chapei player Ouch Savy, while Saturday 11th will host the first ever Cambodian movie featuring a taboo lesbian love story in Who Am I? Dengue Fever's Sleepwalking Through The Mekong gets another airing on Friday 17th and Rithy Panh's film, Burnt Theater, will be screened on Tuesday 21st. And there's lots more besides.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Out of the picture

A busy day today, so much so that I haven't time to put you in the picture other than the morning was spent at Sokheng's engagement party in Kien Svay, the afternoon was spent at Olympic Stadium watching a couple of football matches and the evening, well that's private. I'll post the story and pictures tomorrow morning.
And don't forget, tomorrow at 7pm (that's Monday 29th) make sure you come along to the special film screening at Meta House, alongside Wat Botum, of .... sorry I still can't release the name of the film but I can assure you it will be worth watching the Cambodian premiere of a film that dissects key issues in Cambodian today.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Under wraps

This coming Monday 29th Meta House will show a very special 'surprise' film that hasn't been seen in Cambodia before, yet it created quite a stir in the international press when it had its first showing in Europe recently and we hope that its screening in Cambodia will have the same effect. For the time being the title of the film is under wraps. All very cloak and dagger but it'll be worth it. Space on the night will be limited, so drop me a line if you want to reserve a seat or call Nico on 012 607 465. Meta House on Street 264 in Phnom Penh is the location and the film will begin at 7pm.
For cinema lovers in the capital, a new option is officially opening its doors for the first time tomorrow on Street 95. It's called The Flicks and can accommodate 24 people in its theatre, seated on futon mats. Its aim is to show mainstream English-language films as well as documentaries and art-house movies. The more the merrier in my view.
On the food front, I returned to my usual haunt, Cafe Fresco, at lunchtime today and enjoyed a soup and sandwich lunch that put my recent one-off defection to The Lunch Box into perspective. The choice at Fresco's is wider, the prices similar and the aircon and ambiance much more inviting. Stick to what you know and enjoy.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's a secret

I've been busy obtaining dvd's of films and documentaries that haven't seen the light of day in Cambodia before, to show at Meta House over the last couple of months. For no other reason that I wanted to see them myself and to give others the chance to view them too. Its been pretty successful and Nico at Meta has been his usual generous self in providing space in his screening programme for them. The feedback I got from showing The Tenth Dancer, The Red Sense, Out of the Poison Tree and other films has made the effort well worth it. On Monday 29th of this month, we'll host another screening at 7pm but for the time being the title of the film is under wraps. It recently created quite a stir in the international press when it had its first showing in Europe and I hope that its screening in Cambodia will have the same effect. Space on the night will be limited, so drop me a line if you want to reserve a seat. Sorry for the cloak and dagger stuff but it's safer to keep it under wraps until the last minute. Intrigued... good.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009


One of the photos from the NGO Daughters exhibition at Meta House
I watched the feature film Holly for the first time tonight at Meta House. I wasn't blown away by it I must admit, it was pretty lame stuff focusing on the trafficking of a young girl through Svay Pak, the former notorious K-11 area outside of Phnom Penh. It wasn't a film that I would particularly recommend or watch again, aside from spotting Dang Kosal as a young garbage-collector who later spits in the face of the lead man. Kosal more recently played one of the tough guys in the musical Where Elephants Weep and used to work at Meta House. Nice guy. As for the film, it didn't really punch as hard as I was expecting and was pretty predictable and cliched. I hear on the grapevine that it cost an absolute mint to make and from a personal point of view, disappointed me to the level that City of Ghosts did. I don't need to keep seeing the seedier side of this country portrayed on the big screen, but if I do, it needs to grab me by the lapels and make me take notice. Holly didn't. As a precursor to Holly, Nico from Meta House screened his own work-in-progress Sold Out! documentary about trafficking. Whilst at Meta House I had a look at the Daughters photographic exhibition, where former victims of trafficking have turned their lives around and display their artistic talents in the Mezzanine Room. Tomorrow is the start of The Building exhibition at Bophana which will include photos and film screenings over the next few weeks. Well worth checking out by the look of it.
Members of one of the NGOs that help trafficked women have an exhibition of photos at Meta House right now

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Heading for Siem Reap

I'm off to Siem Reap for the next three days/nights for work purposes and may not have the time to update my blog as usual. I'll try but can't promise. Looking forward to catching up with a few friends, to see Eric's 4Faces gallery for the first time and to pop into Angkor if I have time. Then I'll be back for football on Saturday and maybe a trip into the countryside on Sunday - I've missed my Sunday moto-rides into the beautiful rural landscape of the countryside and interacting with villagers who seldom see barang in their neck of the woods. It brings back in floods what I love about this country.

I've identified a few 'don't miss' events in Meta House's programme this month. This coming Friday will see the start of their Environmental Film Weekend with three nights of films looking at the struggles of wildlife, water and forests in Cambodia. Wednesday 10th has trafficking as its focus with the film Holly being shown. Sunday 14th has an unusual twist with Joel Montague presenting his postcards and posters from a bygone era in Khmer Ephemera. Wednesday 17th is a 'must see' with the Khmer Arts Ensemble recorded live in New York dancing the Magic Flute. Two days later on Friday 19th Cambodian Living Arts present two films, Gongs Across Borders and The Flute Player. On Wednesday 24th Nana Yuriko's Cambodia For Sale 1-hour documentary looks at forced evictions. Last but not least, Monday 29th will see the screening of a suprise film. I will let you know more details nearer the time but I urge you to get along anyway, even if you don't know what you'll be watching!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Legacy film shows

Em Theay adjusts the headdress of her principal student Sok Chea
This week Meta House is screening a selection of rare documentaries that deal with Cambodia's troubled past, it's legacy of the last 40 years. I will be presenting two films on Thursday of this week (28th May) and two more on Friday night, both screenings begin at 7pm at Meta House, next to Wat Botum on Street 264. If you haven't seen The Tenth Dancer then you must come on Thursday. It is a extraordinary film shot in 1993 that tells the story of the re-emergence of classical Khmer court dance in the wake of the Khmer Rouge's attempts to annihilate the country's cultural heritage. Told through interviews with the incredible Em Theay and her principal dancer Sok Chea, it is a wonderful time-capsule of the early 90s and a tribute to a true icon of Cambodian culture, Em Theay. The recent benefit screening of The Tenth Dancer at Bophana was dedicated to her after a house fire destroyed her family's possessions including a tattered song and dance book that she managed to keep hidden throughout the Khmer Rouge regime. You will see how much that book meant to her in the film. I saw Em Theay out of the corner of my eye at the Bophana screening and she wept as she watched that segment of the film. If that doesn't get to you, nothing will. To meet the lady in person is to be absorbed by her spirited personality and natural grace and zest for life and dance. The film by Sally Ingleton is a wonderful tribute to her and her fellow dancers and teachers. Visit the website of The Tenth Dancer to find out more about this incredible story of survival. The second screening on Thursday will be the dreamlike Samsara: Death & Rebirth in Cambodia, produced in 1989 by Ellen Bruno, documenting the struggle of Cambodians to rebuild a shattered society, interspersed with ancient prophecies and folklore.
The opening sequence of The Tenth Dancer with Em Theay and Sok Chea at the Royal Palace
Em Theay proudly shows some of the books she kept hidden during Pol Pot time
Em Theay and her principal dancer Sok Chea
Samsara: Death & Rebirth in Cambodia

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

May's Meta highlights

Well, for starters I will be hosting a couple of documentary nights at Meta House later next month, so I recommend you get along to both of those evenings. As part of Legacy Week, on Thursday 28th at 7pm, I am really pleased to present a double-bill of The Tenth Dancer and Samsara. These documentaries are from 1993 and 1989 respectively and are a time capsule of how Cambodia had survived the Khmer Rouge period and almost ten years of Vietnamese control. I'd asked Sally Ingleton for a copy of The Tenth Dancer before I heard about Em Theay's sad loss when her house burned down last month, so this showing will be particularly poignant. The following evening, Friday 29th, in 'Never Before Shown In Cambodia,' I will have two documentaries to screen, Isabelle Abric's 1993 Fear & Hope In Cambodia which chronicles Cambodia's recent history, and Anne Henderson's 1998 film The Road from Kampuchea, telling the story of the courageous Tun Channareth, co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.
Meta House, on Street 264 in Phnom Penh, will also be screening Site 2 by Rithy Panh on the 30th, and earlier that week, on the 27th, a double-bill of John Pilger's The Betrayal and Tom Fawthrop's Dreams & Nightmares, both documentaries from 1989 and exposing the West's support of Pol Pot. It's a packed month to be honest, with the We Want You To Know! film - with scenes of the KR period recreated by villagers on Sunday 10th - and lots of other interesting films on show, as well as the usual exhibitions and a Pride 09 film festival that focuses on the LGBT community in Cambodia. Link: Meta House.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Event highlights

There's a veritable bundle of exhibitions and stuff happening around Phnom Penh at the moment. Just in brief, here's the run-down on a few of the highlights. At Monument Books tonight there's a talk by thriller writer Tim Hallinan about his books at 6pm, and on Thursday at ACE he's giving tips on writing a novel. Count me in. Obviously there's a whole schedule of films, talks and whatever going on at Meta House. On Saturday they have
a double-bill from 7pm of Jim Gerrand’s film The Prince & The Prophecy and Norodom Sihanouk’s movie Shadow Over Angkor. The exhibition running there at the moment is called Intercities Phnom Penh-Lijiang and it features a range of artists including Ou Vanndy, Chhea Bunna, Ouk Chim Vichet and Sokuntevy Ouer. I should have a couple of documentary nights at Meta House in May so keep an eye out for them.
Over at Equinox (St 278) on Friday is an exhibition of drawings by Khmer artist Nasy Radet called Orphan Smiles which looks interesting, whilst I hear the Messenger Band are playing at Gasolina the same night. Reyum have got a Food in Khmer exhibition running at the moment, Paul Stewart's Ramsar Site 999 - The Flooded Forests of North Cambodia photo showcase began at FCC last night, and the Bophana Center still has its Still Water exhibits on show. Finally, please do not forget that Sunday 3 May will be the benefit screening of The Tenth Dancer at Bophana Center on behalf of Em Theay and her family. I should have this confirmed later today.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Exchange programme

A new exhibition taking place in Long Beach, California gets the Greg Mellen treatment in the Long Beach Press Telegram. And it comes all the way from Meta House, who presented the first Transformations in Phnom Penh.

LB exhibit shares visions of Khmer Lives - by Greg Mellen

On the walls are multimedia, photographic and painted works. In a side room is a photo collage of transgender life in Cambodia along with several books by Cambodian-American authors, including Long Beach's Navy Phim and Oni Vitandham. In the center of the main room is a traditional-looking Cambodian figure with the Superman "S" on its chest.The 2nd City Council Arts and Performance Space is into all things Khmer with the debut of a new show called "Transformation II: Bringing Contemporary Khmer/American Art to Long Beach."

The show features Khmer and Khmer-inspired paintings, sculpture, photography, dance and performance art. There will also be documentary films and a writers' forum with published Cambodian-American writers. The event is being presented at the 2nd City Council space at 435 Alamitos Ave. The show builds upon a show that was presented in July, 2008, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, at the Meta House Gallery. That show paired the work of five California and five Cambodian artists, most of whom had never been in each other's countries. Lydia Parusol, the art manager of Meta House, described the shows as the "first dialogue in an artistic way" between artists from the two countries.

In Cambodia, where most of the population is under the age of 30, in the wake of the Killing Fields Genocide of the late 1970s, a new and vibrant artistic movement is under way and artistic expression is blooming from its ancient but often constrictive roots. "In Cambodia there are young artists who are trying to go from traditional sculpture to more critical thinking," Parusol said. "They are reflecting society and themselves in the present Cambodian culture." And on the walls of the gallery, the fusions of old and new Cambodia are represented in many ways, reflecting a "bridge between traditional and modern art," according to Parusol.

Denise Scott, who splits time between the United States and Cambodia, saw the original "Transformations" show and knew she had to bring something similar to the U.S. and specifically to Long Beach because of its large Cambodian-American population. Furthermore, she wanted to present the show over the Cambodian New Year which occurs in mid-April. "Transformation II" includes the work from the original show, but then builds on it with performance art and plans to show 12 documentary films that look at the vibrant emerging arts scene in Cambodia, including some major public arts projects and individual artists.

Scott says the two Transformation shows are just the beginning of what she hopes will be an ongoing exchange. Plans are already in the works for another show at Meta House, with five to seven American artists traveling to Cambodia to not only show work, but engage in artistic exchanges and possibly working with Cambodian artists to create new works. Scott also plans to have a return show in Long Beach next April. At this year's Long Beach show, only one of the Cambodian artists was able to obtain travel documents. The artists featured have studied at Cal State Long Beach, the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, the Chicago Art Institute and Brown University, among others.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Great news from Reap

A Svay Ken still-life, Basket, from 2007
News just in from Siem Reap, my pal Eric de Vries and his wife Lida are the proud parents of a tiny female tot by the name of C'moon, who arrived this afternoon after a long labour. My heartiest congratulations to all and good to hear mum and baby are doing just fine. The new arrival and the opening of his new 4Faces gallery-cafe on the 24th of this month will keep the new dad busy for sure, especially as everything will stop for Khmer New Year next week. Eric has announced his list of monthly exhibitions until the end of the year, kicking off with the legendary Tim Page, a Sean Flynn solo, posthumously of course, in November and another friend of mine, Jerry Redfern in December. If you are in Siem Reap, please pop in and visit Eric's new venture, close to the old market.
Tonight was the second showing of Out of the Poison Tree at Meta House, which attracted a small but interested audience. The film generated quite a few questions, especially about the KR Tribunal but also a suggestion that the documentary should be made more widely available to Cambodians to watch. I couldn't agree more. Whilst I was at Meta I noticed a couple of paintings on the walls, on the same floor as the Tim Page exhibition, that I hadn't noticed before. Shame on me. They included offerings from the late Svay Ken and from traditional master painter Chhim Sothy.
A departure from the norm for Chhim Sothy, called Anarchic Construction from 2007

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