Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll

It’s possibile to destroy a country but it’s impossible to destroy its soul.
Music can tell about the soul of a country and this is what happens in Don’t think I’ve forgotten.

rock500I discovered amazing Cambodian’s rock and roll thanks to The Cambodian Space Project, a remarkable music band which “covers and preserves songs from the ‘golden age’ of 60s Cambodian pop but also write their own dazzlingly original Khmer psychedelic rock”. I’ve seen them in Melbourne several times. They are fantastic on stage, able to give the public all the energy Cambodia’s rock and roll has. “They’ve now toured all over the world, from Texas to the End of the Road, but the shows they talk of with most pride are the ones they play in remote villages across Cambodia”.

My new passion for this group brought me to see Don’t think I’ve forgotten at MIFF last year. It has been a touching, remarkable and sad discovery.

Directed by John Pirozzi, the documentary unearths the history of the Cambodian rock ‘n’ roll scene born during the 60s and 70s, a unique genre of music brutally destroyed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime.

“What was happening here was totally unique,” Mr. Pirozzi said. “They figured out a way of bringing in the modern world without losing traditional elements…to create something so unique.” (cambodiadaily).

Cambodian musicians took rock influences from America, England and France and added the unique melodies and hypnotic rhythms of their traditional music. The result was incredible and an entire country was captured by the music. Great musicians apparead and a sense of innovation came over Cambodia… until the country was moving to war.

Suddenly Prince Sihanouk joined forces with the Khmer Rouge and rallied the rural population to take up arms against the government that deposed him. The Cambodian military, with American military support, waged a war that involved a massive aerial bombing campaign on the countryside. In the end, after winning the civil war, the Khmer Rouge turned their deadly focus to the culture of Cambodia.

Under the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975 to 1979, musicians were subjected to the most extreme form of censorship—death. Records were gathered up and destroyed, and the musicians that produced them killed.

“All traces of modernity and Western influence were attacked and wiped out. Intellectuals, artists and musicians were specifically and systematically targeted and eliminated”. (dtifcambodia)

It’s incredible how art and music can frigthen the most brutal tyrants. A country that was swarming about music, intellectual fervour, incredible female vocalists, crawling enthusiasm was victim of one of the most brutal genocides in history, killing an estimated two million people, a quarter of the Cambodian population.

Don’t think I’ve forgotten brings us back to the ’60s and ’70s, when music really reflected the times and Cambodians. Those times are indelible and always will be part of Cambodia’s soul.

Here’s a list of the upcoming screenings around the world.

Capturing Film on a Single Image: The Art of Movie Posters

One of the many advantages of living close to one of Melbourne’s oldest cinemas is the experience of simply walking in front of it, just to find yourself staring at the many posters that adorn its entrance.

Movie posters were perhaps the first mean used to advertise films to an audience. They were work of arts that tried to capture the essence of a film in a beautifully composed image. And while they are still with us, most of them today look more like an afterthought. When we have all seen countless trailers, read interviews and early reviews before we even get out into the theatre what’s the purpose of a movie poster? Why attempt to trap the soul of a film within a single image when we can feed the audience teaser trailer after teaser trailer? Yet, movie posters continue to thrive and they hold a special place in the memory of film-lovers.

After finding myself yet again frozen in front of a cinema looking at an old poster for “The Dark Crystal” I thought I’d share some of my favourite movie posters in no particular order. What are yours? Let me know in the comments.

Possession (1981)

Possession - Poster

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Of puppets and bulldozers: Tomorrow We Disappear (2014)

tomorrow-we-disappear

Today I would like to talk about one of the documentaries that immediately captured me when I first saw it at MIFF 2014: Tomorrow we disappear.

I have to thank the directors Jimmy Goldblum and Adam Weber for this incredible and valuable documentary that brings us in a culture otherwise unknown to many people. The importance of this story is written on years of traditions, families and street artists that today risk to be razed.

The documentary follows a colony of artists in New Delhi called the Kathputil, where the tradition of street art is taught to children and passed down from generation to generation. The social context of the Kathputil is marked by poverty but watching their eyes what makes sense to their life is their art… their memories living in their houses, the colours of their objects, the streets walked by their ancestors, the puppets created by their parents and grandfathers. Every single details is full of importance.

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120 Years under imperfect screens

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

In one of Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988) most iconic scenes, the only cinema of the small Italian village is so packed with people that its doors have to be shut, leaving an angry mob of moviegoers outside. Alfredo, the old projectionist then proceeds to open the window behind the projection room and adjusts the glass mirror to split the projection beam, moving the film outside of the cinema and on the façade of a house in the city square. The whole crowd thanks Alfredo and quickly gathers beneath the new improvised outdoor screen. They watch the movie while standing, the audio comes from a small crackling speaker and the image quality is of course abysmal. Yet, everyone is smiling and laughing out loud, enthralled by the film and oblivious of everything else.

The 28th of December 2015 will mark the 120th anniversary of what the Lumière brothers had called “an invention without future”. To celebrate this anniversary the guys at Tàndem Entertainment have put together a great montage that pays tribute to the place where we sit to lose ourselves amongst the stories and images of the “dream factory”: the Cinema.

120 years watching movies together from Tàndem Entertainment on Vimeo.

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20,000 Days on Earth: a portrait of fiction and intimacy

nick caveReality and fiction come together in 20,000 Days on Earth to create a fascinating hybrid film documentary.

Shaped around a day in the life of the 56-year-old Australian rock poet Nick Cave, this film it’s not just a screen biography but it’s a reflection on an artist’s creative spirit, examining “what makes us who we are”.

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Life at the Berrimah Hilton: Prison Songs (Kelrick Martin, 2015)

A ground-breaking and uncompromising documentary that sings into life the stories of a group of Indigenous Australians inmates and shatters preconceptions with grace, empathy and humour.

“Is this your first time at the Berrimah Hilton? Prepare to be amazed. Checking in is all too easy.” – Phil

The “Berrimah Hilton” was Northern Territory largest correctional facility. Built in 1979, the prison was supposed to house up to 110 inmates, but before being decommissioned at the end of 2014 that number had risen to about 800. Of those, 80% were Indigenous people.

The incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians is a tough and confronting topic and one that the general public often shies away from. But what we forget whenever we avoid confrontation with such overwhelming evidence are the stories and the lives behind the data. Kelrick Martin’s new TV documentary Prison Songs shows the faces behind the statistics, giving them centre stage and letting nine inmates sing their story in their own voice.

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Ten films to look forward to in 2015

2014 was a great year for films and 2015 looks to be even more interesting, with lots of exciting movies coming out in the upcoming months. We selected five films each from the ones we can’t wait to watch next year. What are your suggestions for 2015? Let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to our personal “To Watch” list.

Matteo D. Films – Of prayers, silences, revolutions, desert storms and crossguards.

1. Words with Gods (Guillermo Arriaga)

Based on a concept by Guillermo Arriaga, “Words with Gods” is an anthology film featuring shorts that explores world religions and personal spirituality by  an all-star ensemble of directors that features: Hector Babenco, Bahman Ghobadi, Amos Gitai, Emir Kusturica, Mira Nair, Hideo Nakata, Alex de la Iglesia and Warwick Thornton. Curated by acclaimed author Mario Vargas Llosa, “Words with Gods” is the first instalment in a series of four feature films produced under the label Heartbeat of the World project. Each one revolves around a common theme:  religion, sexuality, politics and drug addiction.

The film was first screened at Venice 2014 and is likely to be released globally later this year. I have always been a fan of anthology films and this looks like a really promising one. Just the idea of seeing Thornton, Kusturica and Nakata in the same anthology is enough for me to hope it will find its way to Australia soon.

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