The independent Khmer-language feature film ‘A Cambodian Winter’, a labour of love by Khmer co-producer Bopha Phoung Lav and writer-producer-director Forest Wise, has been acquired for global distribution.
The film is billed as a poetic road trip set against the exotic beauty of Cambodia, where two young orphans set off on a journey of self-discovery and in search of the family they never had.
The project was developed in Siem Reap and shot over four weeks throughout Cambodia in 2015.
Wise used an international team of friends to shoot and score the film. It includes award-winning cinematographer Jaime Reynoso (‘Elysium’, ‘Bloodline’), while the soundtrack and sound design were handled in the UK by Mark Van Hoen (‘Locust’) with contributions to the score made by the cult UK band Slowdive, with whom Forest has collaborated since the early 90’s.
Whilst the key crew positions were filled by foreigners, other members of the crew were youngsters Forest met during his time as a volunteer.
The project started almost by chance when the filmmaker travelled to Cambodia in 2014 and volunteered in an NGO caring for disadvantaged children. He developed a close bond with the kids and initially decided to make a documentary. ‘We had a deep connection,’ says Wise. ‘I knew they had a voice, and I wanted to bring their stories out on screen.’
However, what started out as a documentary idea quickly evolved into a fictional narrative.
‘I liked the idea of a more controlled narrative as the project evolved; a narrative complemented by strong cinematography alongside a powerful score. So Bopha and I created it as a fictional narrative with a real documentary sensibility thrown in.’
Co-producer Bopha Phough Lav has been vital to the project since its inception and worked tirelessly alongside Wise at all stages. Born in a refugee camp, she has more stories to her name than most writers in a lifetime and remains a key part of the team as the films move forward.
‘She was essential to the production. I couldn’t have done it without her,’ he says.
The overriding concept of the film was to create a film that would improve the lives of the kids involved, both those in the cast and in the crew, so the kids remain partners in the film and will share in its legacy as the project moves towards release.