Standing tall in a male industry


Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ

Q: Being a first time filmmaker you chose a subject that deals with history. Why?

To know who we are, and to make sense of today, there is a need to know where we come from, what our past is; and that is the reason my film traces the history of Cambodia through the eyes of a protagonist from the young generation, so that we can walk into the future with more confidence knowing who we are.


Q: The impact intended was both educational and emotional, then?

Yes, very much. That’s what I started out with when I thought of making this film. You see, in Cambodia, my generation and the new generation are ignorant of the past. It’s not their fault. My generation, for example, had no school education and the new generation is so busy with their gadgets that they have no time to think about their origins and therefore are quite lost. The older generation is ashamed about their history and legacy; they want to keep it under wraps. The older generation prefers not to talk of the past and share their experiences with the current generation.


Q: Did you have any apprehensions wondering if the film would receive negative response from the audience, especially the older generation?

As a filmmaker looking to portray a vision, yes, I was always nervous. Not at the time of shoot, but thinking about how the film will be received. If the older generation hated the film that reaction would be temporary, later they would appreciate the film because we have Cambodian DNA and we need to know and appreciate this and everything that comes with it. So, I just focused on making the film. I was nervous when the film was screened, but it was very well received and is travelling places. My happiness lied in knowing that it is received by both the generations in Cambodia, which form two different perspectives.


Q: Tell us about the Cambodian film industry?

A lot of films are being made in Cambodia, but more for the local market. The films are small budget and of low quality. However, in the last four to five years many good films have been made in our country for both the international and local audience. This has led to a revival of the film culture in Cambodia.


Q: How are Indian films received in your country?

In the 1980s there were plenty of Indian films coming to Cambodia along with Vietnamese and Russian films. I’m sure that it is Indian films with which the Cambodian audience connects to greatly since we are culturally very similar. In fact, there is a theatre call Hawaii that only screens Indian films. Two of my favourite films are Aakrosh and Hindustan ki Kasam. I thought both were very touching.


Q: What got you into filmmaking?

I joined the film industry in 2000 as a fixer after which I became line producer. I worked on many foreign films as line producer and then worked my way up to producer and then director. The Last Reel is my directorial debut.


Q: What challenges do you face as a woman director?

Being a woman director there were several challenges, but then I also faced challenges as a first time director. In my film, most of the cast is male and that too with more experience than me, not necessarily good experience, but because of which they consider themselves superior. My experience in the film business helped and it was not difficult to win their trust. However, it’s always difficult to raise your voice to assert yourself. These challenges are part of the male dominated society. With the success of the film I have earned a lot of respect within and outside the film industry.