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Who Am I?

threatical poster
Directed by Phoan Phoung Bopha
Produced by Phoan Phoung Bopha
Written by Phoan Phoung Bopha
Bol Pisey
Starring Keo Sreyneang
Ny Monica
Distributed by Pkal Pream Production
Release date(s) 1 April 2009
Running time 120 minutes
Country Cambodia
Language Khmer
Budget USD $20,000

Who Am I? (Khmer: ខ្ងុំជាអ្នកណា,Kyom Chear Nak Na) is a first Cambodian lesbian-themed tragic romance film, by writer and director Khmer novelist, Phoan Phoung Bopha. The story deals with a taboo lesbian love story about a Cambodian American woman infatuated with a famous Cambodian actress. [1 ].

Contents

Plot

Rath (Keo Sreyneang), a Cambodian-American woman, who returns to Cambodia in order to meet her favorite Khmer singer-actress, Thida (Ny Monica), after a series of long-distance telephone conversations. With strong help and support, Thida was able to become god sister to Rath, who was allowed to live with her and her family in Cambodia. Their relationship together started as sisterly/best friends. Thereafter, Rath and Thida were inseparable and constantly spent time with each other. Unbeknownst to Thida, Rath had romantic feelings for her.

One night, Thida is sexually assaulted by Rath. In an attempt to fight her off, Thida starts to realize what was really being done to her by her best friend, Rath. Thida cries out and is heard by her mother. Thida is warned by her mother to not have any type of intimate relationship with Rath.

Having realized that she has fallen in love with Rath later, they continue to find ways to see each other.

Ultimately, Thida's parents find out and attempt to separate the two women by having Thida marry a man. Thida, meanwhile, doesn't know he is already married. Despite being with him, she and Rath run off together the day of the wedding and is then chased down by the boyfriend, who is enraged by their lesbian relationship. He confronts Rath and brandishes a gun. He takes aim and shoots to kill Rath. With great devastation of her lover's death, Thida ends her own life with a gunshot. Her parents' plea to save their daughter from suicide was done in vain. The hardship of love between two people of the same-sex is highlighted throughout the film, including conflicting parent/child views and the Cambodian societal perception.

The movie ends sadly with both women dead and the arrest of the boyfriend. The film reveals the tragic love story between two women. There is an implication that same-sex love is not viable as perceived by Cambodian society.

Production

The film took a full six months to write the script and three months of filming with a budget of $20,000. The film concept came about when the director, Phoan Phoung Bopha, first worked for the Cambodian Television Network (CTN). Her accounts with most of the people working in the cosmetics business made her realize that gay people have real lives too just like everyone else in society. She said she used to work with these people every day and learned of their personal stories. [2].

In addition, she stated that the storyline of the film was loosely based on some real-life Khmer celebrities.[3]. Phoan Phoung Bopha's intent was to make a film that would humanize the issue and raise awareness of discrimination against gays/lesbians. The film is now available with English subtitles.

Reception

The film was widely received and was a surprising success in its first week. It attracted some 4,000 viewers in just one theatre in Phnom Pehn while there was another one in Siem Reap. Its success signifies a blockbuster for the country's tiny movie industry. "This film has been successful beyond our expectations while the film industry has declined. This film draws great attention," Phoan Phoung Bopha said.[4]. After spending a month in Lux theatre, the film was then released in the Soriya Mall Cinema where approximately 500 to 1,000 tickets were sold per day—a major hit for a Cambodian film release.

Who Am I? surprised Cambodia with a new and taboo plot of same-sex love (see LGBT), which created a monster wave of movie-goers to the cinema (see the history of Cinema of Cambodia). Several Khmer young writers started to provide similar storylines in upcoming literature. The first lesbian-related novel was Gentle's Love, written by Chan Poul. The DVD market also received the issue after a Thai gay film, called Bangkok Love Story, became the top-selling film in Cambodia and Laos. [5]

With a lesbian love plot already in place with Who Am I?, Cambodia also announced its annual Gay Pride parade in Phnom Pehn again, which occurred in mid-May 2009 and coincided with International Day Against Homophobia. [6]

In spite of its success, not everyone was excited by its taboo storyline. It also received some critical responses from some audience members. One university student responded that the film will make the audience [turn] homosexual after watching it. However, the director rebuffed it by saying spending two hours watching the film won't change your sexual identity at all but she hopes that people will try to understand the non-discrimination message.

Initially, the director was concerned that she would not get the national permit to make this film from the Ministry of Fine Arts. She was apprehensive because of the film topic and how Cambodians would receive it as it is against Cambodian traditional views. [7]

Previously, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2007, publicly announced and denounced his adopted daughter who is a lesbian. He stated that he legally severed ties with her because of her "bad" behavior and did not want her to seek future financial gain as she might cause further problems with the family. Meanwhile, Hun appealed to the public to not discriminate against gays and lesbians. [7]

Despite the Prime Minister's recent personal revelation, the film's popularity was not at all affected. The success is most likely due to the very proactive international communities of LGBT's fight for equal marriage rights (see Same-sex marriage). The coincidence of the film release has since created more interests around the world in this film.

Since the release, CTN has made a TV series called Dong Vitey Dara (2009) in which the film, Who Am I? was a spin-off of. Dong Vitey Dara, meaning "Celebrities' Road," is a Cambodian TV soap opera series based on the lives of Khmer stars in the show. Who Am I? is one of the actors' and actresses' new film venture within the soap opera, Dong Vitey Dara.

Themes

One of the themes is a positive view regarding homosexuality. In Cambodian society, same-sex love or relationships are frowned upon and such acts are viewed as shameful and degrading for the family image or reputation. The film, which was promoted in such a politically correct manner, conveys the message to avoid discrimination of gays and lesbians in Cambodia.

Another view is a negative one. Such relationships are forbidden and should not be allowed to be carried on in Cambodian society. Gays and lesbians are not allowed to live happily ever after in a much conservative Southeast Asian nation.

Viewers are left with a message to ponder regarding whether or not they should accept homosexuality. The film director tried to appeal to both sides of the argument.

Other themes can include culture clash among people with traditional view and modern-day liberal views, love triangle, arranged marriage, western views versus non-western views.

References

  1. ^ flick pop. april 15, 2009. First Cambodian lesbian film is a hit, Pop max now; retrieved 2009-05-10
  2. ^ . April 17, 2009. Who Am I? brings same-sex issues out into the open, Phnom Pehn Post; retrieved 2009-05-10
  3. ^ . april 10, 2009. Khniom Chear Nak Na? "Who Am I?", Cambodia out; retrieved 2009-05-10
  4. ^ . April 09, 2009. First Cambodian lesbian film is a hit, gay news next; retrieved 2009-05-10
  5. ^ . May 02, 2009. អ្នកនិពន្ធរឿងហ្គេហ៍ ក៏ជាហ្គេហ៍ដែរ? , Arcpakai; retrieved 2009-05-10
  6. ^ . April 27, 2009. Phnom Penh Gay Pride Update, Queen colour; retrieved 2009-05-10
  7. ^ a b . April 27, 2009. Who Am I? brings same-sex issues out into the open , CAAi News media; retrieved 2009-05-10

External links

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