Culture minister hopes Kingdom can attract more film productions

The film Ononda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle premiered in Cambodian theaters on October 25. Photo provided

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona has praised the film Ononda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle, saying it marks another successful joint film production by Cambodia and France. It is likely that more foreign film productions would see Cambodia as a great filming location, she added.

The minister attended the premiere of the Khmer-language version of the film at Legend Premium Olympia and said she was delighted to see the film, after waiting more than three years for its release.

Sackona said attracting foreign filmmakers to Cambodia is one of the current policies of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the government. Given the rich landscapes of the Kingdom that are featured in the film, the minister hoped that more foreign producers would be interested in filming here.

The launch was attended by Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, representatives of the Ministry of Environment, French Ambassador Jacques Pellet, US Ambassador W Patrick Murphy, Arthur Harari, the director of the film, Japanese actors and team members.

Ononda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle is based on the true story of a Japanese soldier named Hiro Onoda, who was assigned to an island in the Philippines during World War II. He refused to accept the end of the war and spent over 30 years hiding in the jungle and waging a guerrilla campaign. He finally emerged in 1974, when his wartime commander was flown to the Philippines and personally ordered him to surrender.

The film was directed by Arthur Harari. Filming began in late 2018 in the provinces of Kampot, Kep and Preah Sihanouk, with a production team of over 60 Cambodians and cast and crew members from Japan, France, Belgium, Thailand and the Philippines.

French-Khmer filmmaker Chou Davy described the film’s origins, saying filmmaker Nicolas Anthomé first approached him in 2017, asking if he wanted to be involved in the production.

He said it was an ambitious story and if they wanted to shoot it in Cambodia, he wanted to be a part of it.

He realized that it would be a unique opportunity to share the experience of such a large-scale film production with the local talents he worked with.

“I can hardly believe we managed to produce it. We encountered many obstacles, including filming on Mount Bokor and other forest conservation sites. One challenge I remember was to build a replica of a 1940s Filipino village just 100m from a national road. We ended up abandoning the set for over eight months because of the rain,” he said.

“I am very proud of our Cambodian team, most of whom were young and inexperienced. They brought a strong spirit to the production and inspired the whole team, including the Japanese and Europeans. They have acquired new techniques and a lot of invaluable knowledge, all valuable assets for the Cambodian film industry,” he added.

Ononda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle premiered in theaters in Cambodia on October 25. In 2021, the film was selected for the Un Certain Regard competition, the second biggest prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The awards focus on smaller productions, giving young filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work.

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