Khmer movies (or movies from Cambodia) are an emerging brand of films that are gaining the attention of both critics and popular audiences across the globe. Khmer movies can be both serious and lighthearted, telling the stories of the Cambodian people and their cultural legends and struggles. The following five Khmer movies are certainly worth watching at least once.
Orn Euy Srey Orn
Orn Euy Srey Orn is a Khmer classic released in 1972. It stars Kong Som Oeurn, Virak Dara, Trente Deux, Nop Nam and Ly Rattanak and is directed by Ly Bun Yum. The main plot centers on a love triangle between a poor farmer named Chea, his wealthy friend Sou and Orn, the woman who both men fall in love with. The film takes many melodramatic twists and turns until the climax when the man who truly loves Orn with the greatest honor (Chea) is reunited with his love.
See Angkor and Die
Released in 1993, See Angkor and Die is a film written and directed by Norodom Sihanouk. The film is a romantic drama retelling the story of a young writer who is diagnosed with an incurable disease. Resigned to death, he elects to return to Angkor Wat to spend his final days. His wife, however, remains in their hometown and instead sends her cousin to tend to her husband. Ultimately, the dying husband and the cousin fall in love while the wife makes plans to remarry.
Rice People is an award-winning drama directed by Rithy Panh. Released in 1994, it recounts the plight of rice farmers in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia. It follows one family’s attempt to grow just one season’s rice crop. The film became the first Cambodian film to be considered as a possible nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. It also premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier in the year to much acclaim and critical notice.
The Snake King’s Child
The Snake King’s Child is a Cambodian-Thai horror film based on a popular legend about the half-human daughter of a snake god. Released in 2001, it became the first feature-length movie to be produced in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge era. The Snake King’s Child is the third attempt to film the popular myth in Cambodia, testament to the fact that the myth speaks deeply to the culture and people of Cambodia. Since the production crew could not afford any special effects, the snakes on the main characters head were achieved by gluing live snakes (yes, live snakes) to a cap worn by the actress playing the protagonist.
My Mother is Arb
My Mother is Arb is a horror film based on popular Cambodian folklore. The story is about a young man who has lived his entire life alone with his mother in a big, empty house in a secluded area. One night he accidentally discovers that his mother is in fact the evil spirit known as Arb. The boy becomes terrified that his mother will kill him at any point and becomes consumed with fear. He pretends not to know her secret in an attempt to survive her evil, but wonders how he can escape her clutches without everyone else also learning that his mother is the evil Arb.