Cambodia has submitted Chhay Bora’s Lost Loves to the best foreign-language film category of the Academy Awards, marking the first time in 18 years that the country has sent a film to the Oscars.

The Cambodia Oscar Selection Committee (COSC) voted unanimously for the historical drama, which follows the experiences of a middle-class woman during Pol Pot’s genocidal regime.

Chhay Bora and his wife Kauv Sotheary, who are both university professors, used 15 years of personal savings to finance the film, one of the first historical dramas made by Cambodians about life during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Bora directed and produced while his wife plays the leading role. She is the surviving daughter of Leave Sila, the woman whose story forms the basis of the film.

The film was released in Cambodia on January 6 and, due to demand, screened consecutively for 42 days. It then continued to play on a weekend basis until April 2012.

“This event is historic for Cambodia’s reviving film industry,” said COSC chairman Mariam Arthur. “The only other film submitted by Cambodia for Oscar consideration was Rithy Panh’s The Rice People in 1994.”

The COSC was granted approval by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in October 2011.