Matt Dillon And His Impact On The Cambodian Film Industry

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Cambodia’s social and mainstream media was abuzz in early July 2023, as American Hollywood star Matt Dillon returned to the Kingdom to hold film masterclasses and discuss his relationship with Cambodia.

Importantly, Dillon had also agreed to be the patron for the 12th CIFF (Cambodia International Film Festival) and its Co-Founder and General Secretary Chandara So spoke with B2B Cambodia about what Dillon’s presence means for the local film community.

Matt Dillon – CIFF Patron

As the Official Patron of the Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF), he was a guest of honour at a special Meet & Greet in Phnom Penh aimed at highlighting the local industry and a screening of his film on July 8th 2023.

Dillon was joined by the aspiring film community in the capital, and attendees had the chance to engage with him over the film, and he also gave a masterclass in acting for aspiring filmmakers.

Chandara was thrilled with the event and Dillon’s visit to Cambodia, saying the timing for it “all just worked out well” and he was delighted Dillon would be a patron for the CIFF. “Previously we had Angelina Jolie and we have had other stars… they inspire the local filmmakers,” added Chandara. “Tonight we had many talented filmmakers from the Cambodian diaspora and they all enjoyed the screening and now they don’t want to leave the film hall (as they engaged with Dillon).”

As a founder of the CIFF, the Cambodian has been involved in the Cambodian film industry since 2010. “I’m very optimistic about the local film industry. I have seen a lot of great progress. One simple example is that in 2010 we didn’t even have a cinema multiplex but today we have more than 100 screens including IMAX and high-tech equipment, and more human resources.”

Impact of ‘City Of Ghosts’ On Cambodian Film Industry

Matt Dillon starred in the Hollywood film ‘City of Ghosts’, but it was also his directorial debut more than two decades ago (he also shared the co-writing credit). The US production was the first to take place in Cambodia post-civil war. The American’s return to the Kingdom in 2023 is his first visit in eight years but his first ever visit was as far back as 1992.

“City Of Ghosts” was released in 2002 and it was a watershed moment for the Cambodian film industry, as it was filmed on location in the Kingdom so soon after the civil war conflict had ended.

“Dillon is the one who opened the gates and showed that Cambodia was ready for the film business in the early 2000s. He was one of the first actors to do that. We only ended the civil war in 1998 and he was scouting that same year to start filming in 2001. He opened Cambodia to the world,” said Chandara.

Cambodian Film Industry

The Cambodian film industry has made some giant strides over the past two decades. This includes winning multiple awards for short films and full features at major US, European, and Asian film awards.

Notable are the Rithy Panh features “Everything Will Be Ok” and Oscar-nominated “The Missing Picture”, the rising success of Davy Chou who also had his film “Return To Seoul” receive an Oscar nomination, as well as the output from Sok Visal and his cohort of film-makers & producers, and the ongoing presence of Angelina Jolie and her connection to the Kingdom.

But Chandara says there is still some way to go, adding, “Funding is a challenge and we need more accessible funding for filmmakers so we can help develop the talent. We want to produce interesting content and re-enforce the community spirit.”

On support, he said “Each sector needs to have the support of their own community. In the United States, they have guilds but they have a huge scale film industry. But even here (in Cambodia) the producing and directing clubs support each other.”

Matt Dillon’s visit also included trips to the Cambodia Film Commission, Cine Hub Cafe, and to former Hollywood President of 20th Century Fox International Scott Neeson and his Cambodia Children’s Fund project.

The next edition of the Cambodia International Film Festival (the 13th) is planned to take place in March 2023.

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