THE LAST REEL
Directed by Sotho Kulikar
Spirit of Asia Award, 2014 Tokyo International Film Festival
Black Dragon Award, 2015 Udine Far East Film Festival
Cambodia’s Foreign-language Film Submission, 2016 Academy Awards
Two Cambodians separated by age and perspectives are about to make the connection of a lifetime.
When rebellious teen Sophoun (Ma Rynet) turns into an old movie theater parking lot one night, she glances up at the movie screen and sees a beautiful actress who looks dashingly like her mother. The ghostly images are beamed into the night by the theater’s old overseer, a former projectionist Vichea (Sok Sothun) who might know a thing or two about the mysterious actress onscreen.
Through the seductive power of the film image and the silvery shadow of history preserved on celluloid, Sophoun and Vichea open a conversation too-long suppressed. It takes them to the romantic years before the Khmer Rouge: a golden age of film, youth, and love. It also reveals family history that Sophoun is eager to re-embrace.
As in Davy Chou’s Golden Slumbers (SDAFF ’12), Cambodian youth’s fascination with their film history creates a puzzle for them to piece together a turbulent national past. But as in Taiwan’s similar Forever Love (SDAFF ’13), the tale of cinematic rediscovery is full of nostalgia, romance, and the preciousness of family. Director Sotho Kulikar’s most impressive accomplishment though is commemorating an era violently stripped from the record, and revitalizing interest in local moviemaking for a new generation of Cambodians. –Eric Lallana