Filming wraps in a few days in Cambodia on the international co-production Om-Tuk which Australian writer/directors Amiel Courtin-Wilson and Michael Cody are producing alongside Phnom Penh-based Kulikar Sotho.
Sotho is also gearing up to direct her first feature, The Last Reel, written and produced by the UK’s Ian Masters. She co-owns Hanuman Films, a service company that first worked on Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and most recently on the Australian drama Wish You Were Here.
Om-Tuk is being filmed in the Khmer language and focuses on two young Cambodians who are not accepted by society and find it difficult to trust anyone because of the trauma they have experienced.
The film will combine elements of a love story, a road movie and a crime drama – and it has a metaphysical edge. Courtin-Wilson and Cody spent three months late last year researching, writing and filming in Cambodia, coming up with two potential projects.
“The idea was to fold real stories into the fiction-writing process,” Cody told Screendaily, adding that it was a similar methodology as the one used for Hail, the previous film directed by Courtin-Wilson. “We got a lot of great material and detail and this has given the film a lot of authenticity.”
After editing and further working on the script of Om-Tuk back in Australia, the pair returned to Cambodia in early January for the rest of the filming. The government agencies Screen Australia and ScreenNSW, and a private investor, are supporting the project.
Cody formed a bond with Cambodia a decade ago when he reported on the country for ABC TV. He has returned many times since.
The Last Reel will tell a universal story of contemporary inter-generational conflict but also looks back at Cambodia’s painful past, namely the genocide and brutality of the 1970s. Sotho said about 60% of the budget was in place.
“It is a story about the overwhelming human need for stories and storytelling as part of a healing process,” says Sotho. “If having watched our film, young people in Cambodia are inspired to talk to their parents about the past, and vice-versa, I believe that the film will have contributed to this healing process … There would be no greater reward for me than to inspire the next generation of Cambodians to become filmmakers.”
Sotho said the film also sends the message that women should not be frowned upon for being independent in thought and action.
The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is currently examining in Cambodia.