Interview with Festival Director ELOY Cedric (Cambodian International Film Festival)

The Cambodia International Film Festival (10th Edition in 2020) is the most significant and industry driven film event in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Every year, the event features prominent pictures and hosts guests from Cambodia and abroad. CIFF is aimed at sensitizing audiences to the Art of cinema, promote innovative international film making in various forms and present quality productions made in and about Cambodia by national and international filmmakers.


Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

ELOY Cedric: For Cambodian filmmakers, the Cambodian International Film Festival (CIFF) is the main international platform where they can be visible for festivals, distributors, buyers. Since we started in 2010, we have never seen so many Cambodian film in Festivals around the globe.

For foreigner who have shot a film in Cambodia, we offer a platform that link them to Cambodian content and we usually host a premiere opportunity with cast and crew who have worked on the film, or for documentaries, the topics are subject to discussions.

For other international filmmakers we, are one of the most diversified and open-minded Festival in Southeast Asia. We have over 130 films and have an increasing popularity among Festivals or press interested in Asian or Southeast Asian Cinema.

2) What will attendees experience when they attend your upcoming festival?

CIFF is a wide event as we are spreading in 10 venues around Phnom Penh, including one giant outdoor venue.

Attendees can grab a tuku-tuk (local transportation) and jump from one screening to the other with a very wide choice of venues and movies each day for 6-7 days.
We have feature, shorts, documentaries, animation ranging from independent / Art House film to commercial films. Each year we have one or several country focus, master tributes, special themes, Hollywood Premiere, the best of Southeast Asian features, workshops, panel discussions.

We have a free entrance policy which is becoming less and less usual. For each screening, half of the venue is free and the other half is 1.25 USD. In this way we allow young Cambodian to see movies for free and people who want to come just before the screening can buy a ticket and be sure to have a seat.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We choose films that can be accessible to Cambodian audience in terms of topics and narration. We also connect Cambodian filmmakers with different way of filmmaking in Asia, creating networking opportunities for filmmakers around southeast Asia to know each other and possibly work together or at least know each other’s work.

Although we have some Premiere, we do not require International Premiere, world Premiere or such requirements. We want CIFF to be a friendly event where attendees can easily meet attending filmmakers, and enjoy the booming city of Phnom Penh’s nightlife and restaurants.

4) Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Sometimes there is a tendency for festivals to choose films which have been in other festivals, making trendy films and other that don’t get to any. Well to us, it’s important to have some recent quality films which have been recognised by larger Festivals but it’s also important to propose other types of films, more commercial sometimes as to let people know what neighbouring countries produce and what audience like.
We love genre movies and did have programs on horror, comedy, action, love. These more commercial films attract different kind of audience who then end up watching short film program, serious documentaries, animation…As we propose that diversity, our audiences mix and discover films they would not normally watch.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

When we started in 2010, the concept of Festival was little known in Cambodia, a country that did not have one proper cinema left and produced very few films. Nobody understood why we spent money, energy and time to create a film festival.
We work in collaboration with the Bophana Center, founded by Oscar nominated French-Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, an organisation working on film heritage of Cambodia and contemporary production, and also with the Cambodia Film Commission which attract and assists international productions in Cambodia. These two organisations have a common goal of boosting and developing the film industry, the network and platform that CIFF offers serve this goals among other benefits.

We gathered 1,000 people on the first year, each year it increased greatly, today we have over 20,000 audience ! It’s the youth of Cambodia that is curious about the world and in demand of good content compared to traditional media channels in the country.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

We started CIFF by receiving DVDs and paper forms, and moved to online platform about 5 years ago and tried different ones.

We must admit that online platform really facilitate the work for filmmakers/producers/distributors but also for us as a Film Festival. Film Freeway’s interface for us is the best as it’s very quick to find the information, select, communicate, preview the movies.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

Phnom Penh is a booming capital city so I see the Festival growing and growing with it. When we started in 2010, there was not a single DCP theatre in Cambodia and now we have 80 screens and more are to open ! it’s changed a lot. So we are confident that the CIFF has a huge growth potential.

Also local productions are investing more and more in ambitious production and target international markets, so having CIFF to launch and promote movies is a must have tool and most of them today support and understand more and more the role and function of film festival as a non-commercial production platform.
Phnom Penh is a dynamic cultural platform in southeast Asia, the youth is demanding more and more international events and opportunities to discover other culture. Cinema is the perfect medium for that. But CIFF is each year a challenge to finance as it relies almost entirely on sponsor’s support, we hope that the booming economy will allow us to find long term partners and support.

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

I’m not sure if it’s THE BIG BLUE by Luc Besson, or John Sturges THE GREAT ESCAPE with Steve MacQueen or the first, misunderstood and underrated STARSHIP TROOPERS by Paul Verhoven.

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film makes you stay in your chair, because something tells you that something is going to happen next.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Cambodia had an incredible Golden Age of cinema in the 60’s as the former King Sihanouk was an artist and a filmmaker. At that time there were over 40 cinemas in Phnom Penh alone and more throughout the country, there was a star system, maker vendors would all go to the movies once in a while and there as so much energy in this yéyé period. In the 70’s the brutal Khmer Rouge regime destroyed all of it, annihilated artists and facilities, it took until the 90’s to see movies come back with the age of video.

Today the industry is still young but booming with the country, half of the population is under 30. in 2010, there was not 1 short films, now we have over 50 each year. It’s great. Also in the last few years, Cambodia was on screen in Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Amsterdam, Busan Tokyo. Cambodia also sold its first film to Netflix last year, so things are going into the right direction.

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