Cambodian actors Kol Davy and Pream Nak, in a scene from the upcoming feature film Bewailing of Life. Photograph: supplied
Important messages about big social issues are the focus of the new film Bewailing of Life, a feature-length production of the non-profit Fine Arts Association.
“We have produced many speaking plays and social spots to promote awareness of national and commune elections, as well as the decentralisation of the NEFEC, the non-profit organisation working on elections,” said Pream Nak, the film’s screenwriter. “But this is the first time that we produced a movie to fight against current issues such as child abuse, discrimination, drug trafficking and fake medicine.”
The plot follows the heartbreaking life story of a street child named Veasna. As a boy, Veasna sleeps rough and is often beaten by the people who own the doorstep on which he sleeps at night.
Veasna’s luck turns when he is adopted by a generous family and is sent to school. He graduates and gets a job at a media company where he falls in love with a colleague named Tevy.
Pream Nak explains that his lead character’s good fortune doesn’t last for long though.
“Tevy’s father doesn’t like Veasna, because he knows that he is from a poor background. So he plots to separate Veasna from his daughter by hiring a woman to pretend to be Veasna’s mistress.”
His reprehensible plan succeeds and Tevy leaves Veasna. As time goes on, Tevy marries a member of the Mafia, a drug trafficker, while Veasna suffers alone with a broken heart.
Although the woman who posed as Veasna’s mistress confesses her crime to Tevy, it is too late for the star-crossed lovers. Events have been put into motion that cannot be stopped, and the movie ends in tragedy.
Cambodian writers before 1970s would use the struggles and unhappiness of their characters as a metaphor for injustices in society. When they even killed the actors, it meant their society was full of exploitation.
The sad events that unfold through the film are more literal than symbolic.
“This story can happen in our real society today,” says Pream Nak, “Nowadays people who struggle hard in their life like Veasna don’t really survive. A man who is rich like Sambath is not really a good person.”
Two of Cambodia’s biggest stars are on the bill. Tevy is played by the celebrity actress Kol Davy and the police detective is played by Tep Rindaro. Pream Nak himself plays Veasna.
Despite the modern themes and big names, the movie still uses retro production techniques such as dubbing.
Pream Nak knows that Kol Davy has a good voice and he is a speaking theatre performer, but the screenwriter believes dubbing gives a better sense of romance.