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Newest horror film showcases unique Khmer culture, identity

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A still from the feature, which will premiere on April 6. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Newest horror film showcases unique Khmer culture, identity

At first glance, the trailer to new horror sensation The Ritual: Black Nun looks like a western-produced feature film. As the story reveals itself to the viewers, it becomes clearer that this is a Khmer film, with a strong Cambodian identity and close links to the Kingdom’s unique culture and identity.

“I believe this film has the potential to revolutionise the way audiences see Cambodian cinema, and will lead to increased support for the home-grown industry. Across eight painstaking months of production, we paid close attention and made sure every detail was as close to perfection as we could get it. This goes for the audio-visuals – as well as the story. This film created entirely with Cambodian talent,” said Sem Visal, the 44-year-old writer and director of the film.

The film seamlessly integrates themes of familial loyalty regardless of circumstance and explores the rich traditions of the Kingdom. It also incorporates the tale of a foreigner who falls in love with Cambodia and its culture.

Visal, who holds a doctorate in medicine, has been involved in the film industry since his university days. He is also a graduate of a series of directorial courses in Vietnam, Hong Kong and Thailand, and began writing and directing in 1999.

“Khmer viewers of The Ritual: Black Nun will be amazed by what they see – the entire feature is brimming with symbolism that reflects the cultural identity of Cambodia. I believe it will become an effective tool for promoting Cambodian culture, and driving tourism,” he said.

Visal added that he expects the film to challenge people’s perceptions of Cambodian cinema.

“Local directors and producers are making concerted efforts to produce quality films, and I think audiences are starting to realise this,” he said.

“We must all unite in our support of the Cambodian film industry, just as we do with other sectors, if we want to achieve parity with other countries. I believe the quality of this film reflects well on the image of Cambodian cinema,” he went on.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Visal, with knife, directs the cast on the set of The Ritual: Black Nun. PHOTO SUPPLIED

In collaboration with producer Srun Kim Hour, Visal managed to weave many legends from Cambodian folklore into a rich tapestry that is sure to leave film lovers pondering the deeper meaning of life as they depart the theatre.

The international-quality film – which features an all-star cast of both Cambodian and foreign actors – was shot at some of the Kingdom’s most picturesque and culturally significant locations, including Angkor Wat and Pursat province’s Wat Bakan. Several famous Buddhist statues were also incorporated into the film, as they play a major part in the story.

“We even climbed Kulen Mountain to shoot at Preah Ang Thom. The reason that Cambodian-built Buddha statues face west is a crucial plot device – and one that will get the audience thinking about the Buddhist faith and what it means for the Kingdom,” Visal told The Post.

“The film depicts several rituals that are unique to Buddhists, Brahmins and even Christians, as well as showing many forms of traditional Khmer clothing. We also included some of the more esoteric ‘magical’ practices of Cambodia –such as burying corpses face down. It is this kind of content that really demonstrates the originality of the movie, which owes nothing to foreign films,” he added.

The Ritual: Black Nun features a series of mysterious occurrences that force a family into confronting their own superstitions and exploring the spiritual beliefs of other religions. They must work together to try to explain the seemingly unexplainable.

Produced by Wonder Film Entertainment Productions, the film is set to debut on April 6.


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