Spectral Memories of the Screen: the After-Life of Cambodia’s Heritage Cinemas
You will find four sections of photos that make up this photo project. These photos were all taken and edited by me, Jessica, and I also wrote all the text. The Khmer captions were co-written with Ms. Chanlita Eng of the Bophana Center (thank you Lita!). An exhibition of these photos was presented at the Bophana Center with the support of the US Embassy Phnom Penh from 3 July to 19 July 2017. My amazing partner, Saswat Bajracharya, designed the promotional poster and helped to design the exhibition in the gallery (along with all the emotional support!). I am very grateful for all the help and support of institutions and individuals in the making of this exhibition. For the most thanks, that goes to the communities and people who shared space with me and invited me to listen to their stories. Thank you.
Each mini-gallery demonstrates a different method of doing memory work related to the history of cinema in Cambodia.
Nineteen photos fall within the thematic of “Spectral Memories of the Screen.” The photos hope to evoke the specters of these cinemas past lives and present memories.
Installed in 2004, plush cinema chairs extend their cup-holders in greeting. Seat-heads glow inside dimly lit Mohaosrop Sihamoni Cinema in Kampong Cham. The balcony doorway swings open, suggesting an audience about to arrive. កៅអីនៅក្នុងមហោស្រពព្រះមហាក្សត្រសីហមុនី បានពង្រីកដៃរបស់ពួកគេក្នុងការស្វាគមន៍។ ក្បាលកៅអីក្នុងរោងកុន មានពន្លឺព្រាកៗ រីឯច្រកទ្វារបានបើកចំហ ទទួលទស្សនិកជនដែលមកដល់។
Refurbished and renovated by new owners for the 2004 release of Tum Tiev, a star-crossed lovers tale that takes place in the Cambodian countryside, the screen inside of Mohaosrop Sihamoni Cinema in Kampong Cham glows, luminescent under a ceiling of warm light. រោងមហោស្រពព្រះហាក្សត្រសីហមុនី បានតុបតែងលម្អ និងជួសជុលឡើងវិញក្នុងឆ្នាំ២០០៤ ដើម្បីបញ្ចាំង ខ្សែភាពយន្តទុំទាវ ជាមួយនឹងផ្ទាំងសំពត់ស ដែលមានពន្លឺស្រទន់។
The diamond pattern on the balcony of Prasat Meas Cinema stands out in the shadowy theater, lit by natural light entering from the exits and doorways. គំនូរពេជ្រនៅលើឡៅនៃរោងកុនប្រាសាទមាស បានក្លាយជារូបឧត្តមក្នុងសាលស្រមោល ហើយពន្លឺធម្មជាតិបានជះចូលពីមាត់ទ្វារមកក្នុងសាលនេះ។
Ellipses of light beam down from a ceiling scarred with punctures and cracks inside Prasat Meas Cinema, Battambang, while painted seat numbers call back the ghosts of movie-goers filling the rows. ពិដានក្នុងរោងកុនប្រាសាទមាស មានប្រហោង និងស្នាមប្រេះជាច្រើន ដូច្នេះពន្លឺបានចាក់ចូលទៅក្នុងរោងកុនដ៏ងងឹត។ ការចងចាំនៃអតីតកាលហាក់ដូចជា វិលត្រឡប់មកវិញ ដែលមានអ្នកទស្សនាជាច្រើននាក់ អង្គុយនៅទីនោះ។
A shining door handle catches the light from a crack in the ceiling in a darkened hallway in Prasat Meas Cinema. The aged, wooden cinema chairs cast long shadows on the dusty tile floor. នៅជិតមាត់ទ្វារតាមផ្លូវដើរនៃរោងកុនប្រាសាទមាស មានពន្លឺចាក់ចូលតាមរយះ ស្នាមប្រេះនៅលើពិដាន។ ស្រមោលនៃកៅអី បានជះនៅលើកម្រាលឥដ្ឋ ដែលមានសុទ្ធតែធូលីដី។
Prasat Meas Cinema is no longer in use for the public. There are no more film screenings or events held inside. A young girl from a neighboring family has transformed the dusty aisles and cavernous theater into her imagination’s playground. សព្វថ្ងៃនេះរោងកុនប្រាសាទមាស មិនត្រូវបានប្រើប្រាស់ដោយសាធារណជនទេ។ ក្មេងស្រីម្នាក់ ដែលមកពីគ្រួសារជិតខាង បានយករោងកុនទទេនេះ ធ្វើជាកន្លែងលេងកំសាន្តរបស់នាងទៅវិញ។
After holding up four fingers to tell me how old she is, she nods when I ask her if I can take her picture. Playing in the field of light illuminated by the doorway, we become comfortable with each other. She laughs when I show her the photos I’ve taken on the LCD screen of my camera. And then returns to playing in the spaces of shadows and light, pasts and futures. ក្មេងស្រីតូចបានលើកម្រាមដៃចំនួនបួនរបស់នាង ដើម្បីបង្ហាញខ្ញុំអំពីអាយុរបស់នាង។ ហើយនាងបានងក់ក្បាល នៅពេលខ្ញុំសួរនាងថា តើខ្ញុំថតរូបនាងបានឬអត់? នាងសើចនៅពេលខ្ញុំបានបង្ហាញរូបថតរបស់នាង។ បន្ទាប់មកក្មេងស្រីនោះ ក៏បានត្រលប់ទៅលេងក្នុងស្រមោល និងពន្លឺក្នុងរោងកុនវិញ។
Behind the screen at Prasat Meas Cinema. Remnants of crimson curtains catch the blinding light of the midday sun from the single doorway that exits behind the theater. Just beyond the halo is there another time that feels like another place? នៅពីខាងក្រោយផ្ទាំងសំពត់ស ក្នុងរោងកុនប្រាសាទមាស មានសំណល់ក្រណាត់ពណ៌ក្រហម ដែលចាំងពន្លឺថ្ងៃរសៀល។ ហើយនៅខាងក្រៅទ្វារនេះ ហាក់ដូចជាកន្លែងផ្សេងទៀតដែលមានពេលវេលាខុសគ្នា។
Pearls of light adorn the decayed floorboards of a back-stage addition behind Prasat Meas Cinema. Dreamy, golden shadows seem to call upon the spirits of performing arts troupes from another life. កម្រាលឈើខាងក្រោយរោងកុនប្រាសាទមាស ត្រូវពុកផុយ។ ស្រមោលពណ៌មាសនេះរំឮកការចងចាំពីជីវិតមួយបែបផ្សេងទៀតនៃក្រុមសិល្បៈសំដែង។
Thin, tightly wound cords weave through the eyeholes of the old projector screen in Prasat Meas Cinema. The backdrop shows the enchanting diamond panels that decorate the ceiling. The cords flex and bend with the weight of heavy fabric strung up between them, strung up for an audience watching now from memory only. ខ្សែកោងឆ្លងកាត់រន្ធផ្ទាំងសំពត់សចាស់ៗ នៅរោងកុនប្រាសាទមាស។ ហើយប្រហែលជាមានទស្សនិកជនកំពុងមើលពីកន្លែងនៃការចងចាំពីអតីតកាល។
Flakes of fabric and aged paint lift off the surface of the deteriorated screen, still hanging, in Prasat Meas Cinema. គំនូរធ្លាក់ពីផ្ទាំងសំពត់សចាស់ៗ នៅរោងកុនប្រាសាទមាស។
A wooden beam that once held a projection screen inside Moha Kompaing Cinema displays the remnants of decorative paper and cord from another life. ធ្នឹមឈើមួយនៅក្នុងរោងមហោកំផែងបានបង្ហាញពីសំណល់ក្រដាស និងខ្សែសម្រាប់តុបតែងរោងកុននេះ។
With the electricity switched on for a brief moment, the screen inside Battambang Cinema towers above old wooden chairs while an orange glow emanates from the men’s and women’s toilets sunken just below the screen. ភ្លើងបានបើកឡើងនៅក្នុងរោងកុនបាត់ដំបង ជាមួយនឹងផ្ទាំងសំពត់ស នៅផ្នែកខាងលើនៃកៅអីឈើចាស់ៗ ហើយក៏ជាខណៈពេលដែលមានពន្លឺពណ៌ទឹកក្រូច លេចចេញពីបង្គន់ ដែលស្ថិតនៅក្រោមផ្ទាំងសំពត់សផងដែរ។
Metal reels sit heaped together as if they are castaways, empty of the films they held in the past. The storage space belongs to Mr. Ta Koy’s where he keeps his collection of objects related to his career as a traveling projectionist in Cambodia through the 1980s and ’90s. សម្ភារះដែលត្រូវបានបោះបង់ចោល ស្ថិតនៅក្នុងបន្ទប់ស្តុកអីវ៉ាន់របស់លោកតាកុយ។ សម្ភារះទាំងនោះជាផ្នែកនៃការងាររបស់គាត់ ដែលជាអ្នកបញ្ចាំងភាពយន្ត នៅតាមបណ្ដាខេត្តនានានៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជាក្នុងទសវត្សរ៍ទី៨០ និងទសវត្សរ៍ទី ៩០ ។
The ceiling of Moha Kompaing Cinema dazzles like a sky full of stars. The wooden beams that remain could suggest the placement of a screen in a past life. ពិដាននៃរោងកុនមហាកំផែង មានសភាពចែងចាំង ដូចជាយប់ដែលមេឃគ្របដណ្ដប់ដោយផ្កាយជាច្រើន។ ធ្នឹមឈើដែលនៅសល់ អាចបង្ហាញពីការដាក់ផ្ទាំងសំពត់ស នៃរោងកុនកាលពីអតីតកាល។
A family strings up laundry inside the remains of the building that was once Moha Kompaing Cinema, Kratie. The doorway light reflects in a pool of water at the center of the room where rain collected during many stormy days. The building’s style predates the Sangkum Reastr Niyum Era (late 1950s – 1970) when many new cinemas in Cambodia were built, but the curve of the balcony is a stand-out feature of this cinema. A place that has seen life as a performance hall, cinema, restaurant, cafe, and now as a salon and home. គ្រួសារមួយកំពុងព្យួរសំលៀកបំពាក់ក្នុងសំណង់អគារ ដែលធ្លាប់ជារោងមហោកំផែងនៅខេត្តក្រចេះ។ ពន្លឺចាំងពីច្រកទ្វារចូលទៅដល់កណ្ដាលបន្ទប់ ដែលពោរពេញទៅដោយទឹកភ្លៀង ដែលទទួលរងដោយព្យុះអស់ជាច្រើនថ្ងៃ។ រចនាបទស្ថាបត្យកម្ម មុនសម័យសង្គមរាស្ត្រនិយមពីឆ្នាំ ១៩៥០ – ១៩៧០។ រចនាសម្ព័ន្ធនៃឡៅនេះគឺគួរឱ្យចាប់អារម្មណ៍។ រោងកុននេះធ្លាប់មានជីវិតជាច្រើនដូចជា សាលសម្តែង ភោជនីយដ្ឋាន ហាងកាហ្វេ ហើយឥឡូវនេះជាហាងសក់កែសម្ផស្ស និងផ្ទះ។
Supporting beams inside Moha Kompaing Cinema catch the light and glisten as the rain streams through holes in the ceiling. I ask myself, what could this space remember if it could talk? ពន្លឺបានជះមកលើធ្នឹម នៅក្នុងរោងកុនមហាកំផែង និងមានទឹកភ្លៀងហូរតាមរន្ធនៅលើពិដាន។ ខ្ញុំសួរខ្លួនឯងថា តើខ្ញុំគួរពិពណ៌នាកន្លែងនេះយ៉ាងដូចម្ដេច ប្រសិនបើអាចចងចាំពីកន្លែងនេះបាន?
Mrs. Sim Mala and her husband Thea Sokon who rent Cine Royale Theater are interviewed by Mr. Chath Piersath, a Cambodian poet, artist and oral historian, on behalf of Kampot Readers and Writers Festival. Mrs. Sim Mala and her husband, who works as a policeman in Kampot, have lived on the side of the old Cine Royale since the 1980s. As children in the 1960s, they both found a deep love for the arts and entertainment industry in Cambodia. Today, they sacrifice their time and use their own income to try to breathe life into the old cinema. They own a digital projector and speakers, and they occasionally put on a screening of a popular film in order to get people to enter the theater, experience the ambience, and remember the days when these theaters existed all over the country. អ្នកស្រី ឈ្មោះស៊ឹម ម៉ាឡា និងប្តីរបស់គាត់ ឈ្មោះធា សុខន ដែលជួលរោងកុនស៊ីនរ៉ូយ៉ាល់ ត្រូវបានសម្ភាសដោយលោកឆាត ភាសាត គឺជាសិល្បករ អ្នកនិពន្ធកំណាព្យ និងអ្នកប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រផ្ទាល់មាត់។ អ្នកស្រីស៊ឹមម៉ាឡានិងប្ដីដែលធ្វើជាប៉ូលីស បានរស់នៅជិតរោងកុនស៊ីនរ៉ូយ៉ាល់តាំងពីសម័យ១៩៨០។ កាលពួកគាត់នៅក្មេងៗ ពួកគាត់ស្រឡាញ់វិស័យសិល្បះ និងវិស័យភាពយន្តខ្មែរខ្លាំងណាស់។ បច្ចុប្បន្ននេះពួកគាត់បានលះបង់ពេលវេលា និងប្រើប្រាស់ប្រាក់ចំណូលផ្ទាល់ខ្លួន ដើម្បីព្យាយាមបើករោងកុនចាស់នេះ។ ពួកគាត់មានម៉ាស៊ីនបញ្ចាំងឌីជីថល និងប្រព័ន្ធអូឌីយ៉ូ ហើយជួនកាលពួកគាត់ចាក់បញ្ចាំងភាពយន្តដើម្បីអញ្ជើញមនុស្សចូលរោងកុន និងចងចាំពីអតីតកាល ដែលធ្លាប់មានរោងកុនទូទាំងប្រទេស។
Light and shadow are the subjects of these photos while the interior of the cinema is the frame for seeing. In this way, the existence of light within the dark invite the viewer past the point of sight and into the realm of memory. Close-up encounters with the textures, artifacts, and discarded objects that once enriched the life of the cinema elicit the memories of complicated pasts and futures. The act of remembering intends to inspire questions rather than provide complete histories.
Section two takes a step back and widens the gaze. Here the viewer looks upon the facade of the cinema, experiencing the contrast between what can be perceived from the outside and what may be felt and remembered upon entering. The section is concluded with two photos that document the total obliteration of a heritage building.
The facade of Battambang Cinema shows signs of aging, but audiences still have an opportunity to see a film every now and then in this single-screen theater. The auntie who sells snacks from the foyer of the cinema told us that if the Khmer movie they screen is high quality with good storytelling then maybe people show up to get a ticket. But with soaring electricity costs and a quickly deteriorating ceiling, it’s more and more difficult to keep the cinema afloat. ជួនកាលមានការបញ្ចាំងភាពយន្តនៅក្នុងរោងកុនបាត់ដំបង សម្រាប់ទស្សនិកជន។ ស្ត្រីម្នាក់ដែលលក់នំនែក នៅខាងមុខរោងកុនបាននិយាយថា បើខ្សែភាពយន្តខ្មែរមានគុណភាពខ្ពស់សាច់រឿងល្អនោះ នឹងមានអ្នកទស្សនាច្រើន។ ប៉ុន្តែដោយសារថ្លៃអគ្គីសនីកើនឡើង និងពិដានរោងកុនកាន់តែយ៉ាប់យ៉ឺនពិបាកក្នុងការធ្វើឱ្យរោងកុនមានផលចំណេញ។
Around Steung Treng town everyone called it “the big red house.” They said that for decades, the second oldest building in town had been the cinema. And now in its place stood a multi-storied, brightly painted home. In 2008 the local government brokered a deal with a family who wanted the land, and that year, the only cinema in Steung Treng was destroyed. A granny in her 70s told me how in the old days she and her friends would bicycle from school to the theater almost every day, parking their rides out front and enjoying the dark interior, the crowds, and of course, the films. She remembered every type of film playing in the theater, Indian, Russian, Khmer, Vietnamese, American, French. And when the building was obliterated in 2008, she was astonished. It had survived so much, she told me. Then one year, it was gone. មនុស្សទាំងអស់ ដែលនៅជុំវិញក្រុងស្ទឹងត្រែង បានហៅទីនេះថា ផ្ទះក្រហមធំ។ ពួកគាត់បាននិយាយថា អស់ជាច្រើនទសវត្សរ៍មកហើយ អាគារចាស់ជាងគេទីពីរនៅក្នុងទីក្រុងនេះ គឺជារោងកុន។ សព្វថ្ងៃនេះមានផ្ទះធំៗជាច្រើន ស្ថិតនៅលើកន្លែងដែលធ្លាប់ជារោងកុនពីមុន។ លោកយាយម្នាក់អាយុ ៧០ឆ្នាំបានប្រាប់ខ្ញុំថា កាលពីមុនគាត់ និងមិត្ដភក្តិជិះកង់ពីសាលារៀនទៅរោងកុនស្ទើរតែរាល់ថ្ងៃ ដើម្បីសម្រាកក្នុងរោងកុនងងឹត មើលហ្វូងមនុស្ស និងមើលខ្សែភាពយន្ត។ គាត់ចងចាំខ្សែភាពយន្តគ្រប់ប្រភេទ ដែលធ្លាប់បញ្ចាំងនៅក្នុងរោងកុន ដូចជាភាពយន្តឥណ្ឌា រុស្សី វៀតណាម ខ្មែរ អាមេរិក និងបារាំង។ នៅពេលរោងកុនត្រូវបានបំផ្លាញនៅឆ្នាំ២០០៨ លោកយាយមានការភ្ញាក់ផ្អើលយ៉ាងខ្លាំង។ គាត់និយាយថារោងកុននោះ បានឆ្លងកាត់ទសវត្សរ៍ជាច្រើន ហើយតែរយះពេលមួយឆ្នាំប៉ុណ្ណោះរោងកុន ក៏ត្រូវរលាយបាត់។
Mohaosrop Sihamoni Cinema strikes a magnificent portrait against the blue skies of Kampong Cham city. Mr. Yem Sarith, who began to rent the cinema from the government in 2004, chose to keep the original facade and renamed the cinema to its original name, calling back to the era of the 1960s when the cinema was built and christened by the Crown Prince, now the King, himself. The namesake. មហោស្រពព្រះមហាក្សត្រសីហមុនី ក្រោមផ្ទៃមេឃពណ៌ខៀវនៃទីក្រុងកំពង់ចាម។ លោកយ៉ែម សារិទ្ធ ដែលបានចាប់ផ្តើមជួលរោងកុនពីរដ្ឋាភិបាលក្នុងឆ្នាំ២០០៤ បានរក្សាទុកសភាពដើមនិងបានប្តូរឈ្មោះទៅជាឈ្មោះដើមវិញ ដោយត្រលប់ទៅសម័យនៃទសវត្សរ៍ឆ្នាំ ១៩៦០ ។
Electric power lines criss-cross the facade of Moha Kompaing Cinema in Kratie. This building was built sometime in the 1930s during French colonial rule. The original name of the cinema was removed a number of years ago when the cinema was turned into a restaurant and dance hall by the local provincial government. The original name exists now in memory only, and fewer and fewer people can say that they saw a movie in this theater once upon a time. Today, Moha Kompaing Cinema is home to a men’s and women’s salon where young people lounge, work, and chat in what once was the foyer of the cinema. Inside what was probably the projection room, at least one family now uses that space as a bedroom and storage. ខ្សែបណ្តាញអគ្គិសនី ត្រូវបានអូសកាត់នៅខាងមុខរោងកុនមហាកំផែងនៅក្រុងក្រចេះ។ អាគារនេះត្រូវបានកសាងឡើងក្នុងអំឡុងសម័យអាណានិគមបារាំង។ ឈ្មោះដើមនៃរោងកុននេះ បានលុបចោលអស់ជាច្រើនឆ្នាំ ដោយម្ចាស់បានផ្លាស់ប្ដូររោងកុននេះទៅជាភោជនីយដ្ឋាន និងរង្គសាល។ បច្ចុប្បន្ន ឈ្មោះដើមរបស់រោងកុនគឺគ្រាន់តែជាការចងចាំប៉ុណ្ណោះ និងមានមនុស្សតិចតួចណាស់ដែលនិយាយថា ពួកគេធ្លាប់បានមើលខ្សែភាពយន្តនៅក្នុងរោងកុននេះ។
Before 1975, Kratie town had two popular cinemas. This photo represents the site of the Komsan Rietrey Cinema where it would have been standing if it had not been destroyed during the Khmer Rouge occupation and genocidal rule from 1975 – 1979. Mr. Bun Cheng, the owner of Heng Heng II Guest House in Kratie, was a young boy growing up in Kratie during the height of the cinema boom in Cambodia, and he remembers coming back to his home town when the nightmare of Khmer Rouge rule was over. One cinema in town opened back up, but the Komsan Rietrey was too badly damaged and was fully torn down in the years following liberation from the Khmer Rouge. Yet, the space where the theater stood became a park thanks to city governance sometime in the 1980s. One public space transforming into a different public space, keeping an air of relaxation and freshness in the shadow of trees. This is an unlikely after-life for a cinema, but one that many people I spoke to are grateful for. មុនឆ្នាំ ១៩៧៥ ក្រុងក្រចេះមានរោងកុនដ៏ពេញនិយមពីរ។ រូបថតនេះបង្ហាញពីកន្លែងដែលធ្លាប់មានរោងកុនកំសាន្តរាត្រី ហើយមិនត្រូវបានបំផ្លាញ នៅក្នុងអំឡុងនៃរបបខ្មែរក្រហមប្រល័យពូជសាសន៍ ពីឆ្នាំ១៩៧៥ដល់១៩៧៩ ឡើយ។ លោកប៊ុន ចេង គឺជាម្ចាស់ផ្ទះសំណាក់ហេងហេងពីរ ក្នុងក្រុងក្រចេះបានធំឡើងនៅខេត្តក្រចេះ ខណះពេលដែលមានការរីកចំរើនវិស័យភាពយន្តនៅប្រទេសកម្ពុជា។ គាត់ប្រាប់ខ្ញុំថា បន្ទាប់ពីសង្គ្រាមចប់ហើយរោងកុនមួយនៅក្នុងក្រុងក្រចេះ បានបើកទ្វារឡើងវិញ ប៉ុន្តែរោងកុនកំសាន្តរាត្រី ទទួលរងការខូចខាតច្រើនពេក ដូច្នេះអគារនេះក៏ត្រូវបានកម្ទេចចោល។ សព្វថ្ងៃនេះកន្លែងនេះ ត្រូវបានផ្លាស់ប្តូរទៅជាសួនច្បារ។ ការផ្លាស់ប្តូររោងកុន អោយក្លាយទៅជាសួនសាធារណៈមិនមែនជារឿងធម្មតាទេ សម្រាប់រោងកុននៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ពីព្រោះរោងកុនភាគច្រើនត្រូវបានទិញ និងលក់ដោយឯកជន។
Section three introduces the viewer to two people and their stories, demonstrating how oral history can play an important part in the preservation of the history of the cinema industry in Cambodia.
Mr. Seng Chamnan, who goes by the nickname Ta Koy, was a joy to interview, effervescent, generous, and with a twinkle in his eye. He currently lives in Battambang next to Battambang cinema. His stories embody a huge range of life experience, professional skill, loss, adaptation, and change. From learning how to handle projection equipment as a young man to working with master filmmaker Ly Bun Yim to get prints of his famous films and take them into the provinces for screenings in places that had no theaters, Ta Koy built a life-long relationship with cinema in Cambodia from a very young age. Today, he uses his tremendous skills to fix all sorts of electronic equipment at a desk in the front of his house. លោកសេងចំណាន មានឈ្មោះក្រៅហៅថា តា កុយ រស់នៅជិតរោងកុនបាត់ដំបងនៅទីក្រុងបាត់ដំបង។ គាត់មានក្ដីរំភើប រីករាយក្នុងការផ្ដល់បទសម្ភាសន៍ ហើយមានចិត្តសប្បុរស និងមានភ្នែកភ្លឺរលោង។ លោកតា កុយ មានរឿងជីវិតជាច្រើនទាក់ទងនឹងជំនាញវិជ្ជាជីវះការបាត់បង់និងការផ្លាស់ប្តូរ។ គាត់បានរៀនពីរបៀបប្រើឧបករណ៍ការបញ្ចាំងពេលនៅក្មេងៗ ហើយគាត់ធ្វើការជាមួយលោកគ្រូ លី ប៊ុនយីម ដែលជាអ្នកផលិតខ្សែភាពយន្តដ៏ល្បីល្បាញដើម្បីយកភាពយន្តរបស់លោកគ្រូ លី ប៊ុនយីម ទៅបញ្ចាំងតាមបណ្ដាខេត្ត ដែលមិនមានរោងកុន។ សព្វថ្ងៃនេះ លោកតាប្រើជំនាញរបស់គាត់ ដើម្បីជួសជុលគ្រឿងអឡិចត្រូនិចនៅលើតុនៅមុខផ្ទះរបស់គាត់។
Close-up of Ta Koy’s work desk with a lifetime of family photos lovingly handled and then set down. Pictures of his mobile projection company traveling, of the family at work, are never far from at hand. Mementos of years of work and experience look down at him every day and every moment he puts his hands to the tools of his current livelihood. These mementos refuse to be forgotten. He refuses to forget. Above the photos is a poster to commemorate the opening of Golden Slumbers (2011) by filmmaker Davy Chou, who Ta Koy speaks of with the highest regard. រូបថតនៅលើតុការងាររបស់លោក តា កុយ ដែលមានរូបថតជាច្រើនបង្ហាញពីគ្រួសាររបស់គាត់។ លោកតា កុយបានទុករូបថតនេះជិតគាត់ជារៀងរាល់ថ្ងៃ ពីព្រោះគាត់បដិសេធមិនបំភ្លេចអតីតកាលរបស់គាត់ឡើយ។
The family’s mobile projection company pictured in 2004 during the release of the hugely popular Cambodian tragedy Tum Tiev. Ta Koy had begun to travel the countryside with his mobile unit before the country fell under Khmer Rouge rule, but the busiest days for his family business were in the 1980s and 1990s when they would show films from Vietnam, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and a few from Hong Kong and India. The family would travel to a place that had no cinema hall and set up their screen, sell tickets to everyone, project the film, and pack up and move on for another screening. He decided to stop mobile screenings in the early 2000s. According to Ta Koy, the costs and issues of copyright were hampering the business and creating too many problems to keep going. គ្រួសាររបស់លោកតាកុយ ធ្លាប់មានក្រុមហ៊ុនបញ្ចាំងភាពយន្តតាមខេត្ត។ រូបថតគ្រួសារនេះបង្ហាញពីការរៀបចំបញ្ចាំងភាពយន្តទុំទាវ។ គាត់បានចាប់ផ្តើមធ្វើដំណើរបញ្ចាំងភាពយន្ត តាំងពីមុនសង្គ្រាមហើយគាត់មានការចងចាំច្បាស់ជាងគេពីឆ្នាំ១៩៨០ដល់២០០៤។ នៅទស្សវត្សរ៍ទី៨០គាត់បានបញ្ចាំងភាពយន្តពីប្រទេសវៀតណាម រុស្ស៊ី ឆេកូស្លូវ៉ាគី និងមួយចំនួនទៀតមកពី ហុងកុង និងឥណ្ឌា។ បន្ទាប់ពីឆ្នាំ២០០៤ បញ្ហានៃការរក្សាសិទ្ធិ បានបណ្តាលឱ្យលោក តា កុយ បញ្ឈប់ដំណើរការបញ្ចាំង។
Ta Koy stands quietly among stacks of aging film reels and projection equipment. There are eight or ten projection machines from all over the world, ordered from Russia, the US, China, Japan, France. And there are hundreds of film reels rotting away in caskets and boxes. He looks around the room as if he is looking at orphaned animals. Or perhaps there are spirits here who have turned into ghosts who have nowhere to go. Despite reaching out to various organizations to take the abandoned film prints, mostly from Vietnam and India, Ta Koy has had no recourse but to store them. He knows that it gets more and more dangerous to keep them above his house, but destroying them is not an option he will consider. Standing with this man in the dark, hot, crowded room, is like being in a tomb of someone who was very much loved, someone who never got a proper funeral. Standing together there is an act of grieving. លោកតាកុយឈរនៅក្នុងបន្ទប់ស្តុកអីវ៉ាន់របស់គាត់ ដែលពោរពេញដោយខ្សែភាពយន្តចាស់ៗ និងឧបករណ៍បញ្ចាំង។ គាត់ទុកម៉ាស៊ីនបញ្ចាំងជាច្រើននៅក្នុងបន្ទប់នេះ ដែលទិញមកពីទូទាំងពិភពលោក។ ខ្សែភាពយន្តជាច្រើនមូរនៅខាងក្នុងប្រអប់។ គាត់មើលជុំវិញបន្ទប់ហាក់ដូចជាគាត់មើលសត្វកំព្រាឬប្រហែលជាមានព្រលឹងនៅទីនេះ ដែលមិនអាចត្រូវបានដោះលែងបាន។ គាត់បានសុំឱ្យអង្គការជាច្រើនរក្សាទុកខ្សែភាពយន្តចាស់ៗ ប៉ុន្តែគាត់មិនទាន់ទទួលបានជំនួយទេហើយដូច្នេះបើទោះបីជាវាមិនមានសុវត្ថិភាព ក្នុងការរក្សាទុកខ្សែភាពយន្តចាស់ៗក៏ដោយ ក៏គាត់នឹងរក្សាទុកសម្រាប់នាពេលអនាគតដែរ។ ការឈរនៅជាមួយលោក តា កុយ នៅក្នុងបន្ទប់ដ៏ក្តៅងងឹតនេះ ដូចជាចូលទៅក្នុងផ្នូររបស់មនុស្សម្នាក់ ដែលគេស្រឡាញ់ខ្លាំងណាស់ ហើយដែលអ្នកមិនធ្លាប់មានពិធីបុណ្យសពដ៏ត្រឹមត្រូវមួយ។ ការឈរអមគ្នាគឺជាទង្វើនៃភាពសោកសៅ។
Mr. Moeun Chhay sits inside Prasat Meas Cinema in Battambang, just a few blocks away from the house of Mr. Seng Chamnan. Next to the now retired musician is an example of his work from a lifetime before the genocide. Moeun Chhay was employed in the 1960s and early ’70s in Battambang to paint promotional posters for films. During our conversation he explained that as a teenager he taught himself how to paint, spending an entire twelve hours in one day to finish one half or one painting. Many years later, he could paint a film poster on the facade of a cinema in just three hours. His band keeps all of their equipment in what used to be the foyer of Prasat Meas Cinema. Now as he seats himself in front of the camera, his expression suggests that the memories inside this cinema are shaded with both brilliant joy and deep sadness. លោក មឿន ឆាយ ស្ថិតនៅក្នុងរោងកុនប្រាសាទមាសក្នុងខេត្តបាត់ដំបង ដែលនៅមិនឆ្ងាយពីផ្ទះរបស់លោកសេង ចំណានប៉ុន្មានទេ។ គាត់ចូលនិវត្តន៍ហើយ និងមានគំនូររបស់គាត់ក្បែរគាត់បង្ហាញពីជីវិតខុសៗគ្នាមុនពេលមានសង្គ្រាម។ នៅទសវត្សរ៍ឆ្នាំ១៩៦០ និងដើមទសវត្សរ៍ឆ្នាំ ១៩៧០ នៅខេត្តបាត់ដំបង លោក មឿន ឆាយ គឺជាជាងគំនូរផ្ទាំងផ្សព្វផ្សាយសម្រាប់ខ្សែភាពយន្ត។ គាត់បានពន្យល់ថា នៅពេលគាត់ជាក្មេងជំទង់គាត់បានរៀនគូរគំនូរដោយខ្លួនឯង។ គាត់ត្រូវចំណាយពេល១២ម៉ោងដើម្បីបញ្ចប់គំនូរមួយ។ ជាច្រើនឆ្នាំក្រោយមក គាត់អាចគូរផ្ទាំងរូបភាពខ្សែភាពយន្ត ក្នុងរយះពេលត្រឹមតែបីម៉ោងប៉ុណ្ណោះ។ សព្វថ្ងៃនេះគាត់ជាតន្ត្រីករម្នាក់ ហើយគាត់បានទុកឧបករណ៍ភ្លេងរបស់គាត់ ក្នុងកន្លែងដែលធ្លាប់ជាកន្លែងកម្សាន្តនៃរោងកុន នៅក្នុងរូបថតនេះរូបរាងរបស់គាត់ បានបង្ហាញអំពីការចងចាំនៅខាងក្នុងរោងកុននេះ ដែលពោរពេញដោយស្រមោលនៃក្ដីអំណរ និងភាពក្រៀមក្រំយ៉ាងខ្លាំង។
Section four gives a behind-the-scenes look at memory work in action. The RoungKon Project is a local group of architects and architecture students who are passionate about preserving the history of cinemas in Cambodia. These photos reveal their dedication, concentration, and the determination of this young group of people that is sustaining the memories of these places and bringing them to the public.
Tum Yuriphal and Hor Daro inspect architecture plans made in 2004 during the renovation of Mohaosrap Sihamoni Cinema in Kampong Cham. Mr. Yem Sarith, who bought and renovated the cinema shows the renovation plans. I met the young members of the RoungKon Project, which means Cinema Hall, in December 2016. We have collaborated on two research trips and too many project meetings to count, and we each have a unique and different perspective to bring to the study of cinema history in Cambodia.
Tum Yuriphal, Hor Daro, and Ly Roset conduct an interview about the cinema industry as well as the state of arts and culture education in Kampong Cham in the 1980s. Roungkon Project use their skills as architects to survey old buildings and create new drawings where there were not previously any documents for the old buildings. They are interested in sharing with the public a more complete history of architecture in Cambodia’s urban environments. But they also are determined to gather oral histories of people who have experiences related to the film industry, cinema, movie theaters, and more. ទុំ យូរីផល ហោ ដារ៉ូ និង លី រ៉សេត សំភាសន៍ លោកស៊ីម សារឿន អំពី វិស័យភាពយន្តនៅកំពង់ចាម នៅទស្សវត្សរ៍ទី៨០។ គម្រោងរោងកុន ប្រើជំនាញរបស់ពួកគេជាស្ថាបត្យករ ដើម្បីស្ទង់អាគារចាស់ និងបង្កើតគំនូរថ្មីៗ ដែលមិនមានឯកសារពីមុនសម្រាប់អាគារចាស់។ ពួកគេមានចំណាប់អារម្មណ៍ក្នុងការចែករំលែក ជាសាធារណៈនូវប្រវត្តិស្ថាបត្យកម្មពេញលេញ នៅក្នុងបរិយាកាសទីក្រុងនៅកម្ពុជា។ ពួកគេក៏មានបំណងប្រមូលប្រវត្តិសាស្រ្តរបស់មនុស្ស ដែលមានបទពិសោធន៍ទាក់ទងនឹងឧស្សាហកម្មវិស័យភាពយន្ត រោងកុន និងអ្វីៗជាច្រើនទៀត។
Members of the RoungKon Project prepare for a day of photography and survey taking inside Prasat Meas Cinema in Battambang. RoungKon Project intends to write and produce a book for the public that will include photos, architectural drawings, and interviews to fill in the gap of the history of Cambodia’s heritage cinemas. ក្រុមរោងកុនរៀបចំថតរូប នៅក្នុងរោងកុនប្រសាទមាស អស់រយះពេលពេញមួយថ្ងៃ។ គម្រោងរោងកុនមានបំណងសរសេរ និងផលិតសៀវភៅសម្រាប់សាធារណជន ដែលនឹងរួមបញ្ចូលនូវរូបថតគំនូរស្ថាបត្យកម្ម និងការសម្ភាស ដើម្បីបំពេញចន្លោះប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រនៃរោងកុនចាស់ៗ នៅប្រទេសកម្ពុជា។
Tum Yuriphal sits with Ms. Kao Sopheap, the Minister of Culture of Battambang, her assistant, and Mr. Tes Salorn, a former projectionist for Battambang Cinema and Prasat Meas Cinema. RoungKon Project is an example of young people challenging the status quo in Cambodia today. Trained as architects, they are an example to the public that shows a different way of applying knowledge and skill from university. They’re work can inspire young people to care about the history and people’s stories in Cambodia. That history is important to the present and can help us understand what version of modernity we are living in today. ទុំ យូរីផល អង្គុយជាមួយលោកស្រី កៅ សុភាព ដែលជាប្រធានមន្ទីរវប្បធម៌នៃខេត្តបាត់ដំបង និងជំនួយការ លោក ទេស សាលន់ ដែលធ្លាប់ជាអ្នកបញ្ចាំងនៅរោងកុនបាត់ដំបង និងប្រាសាទមាស។ យុវជននៃគម្រោងរោងកុន កំពុងប្រឈមនឹងស្ថានភាពបច្ចុប្បន្ននៅប្រទេសកម្ពុជានៅសព្វថ្ងៃនេះ។ ពួកគេត្រូវបានបណ្តុះបណ្តាលជាស្ថាបត្យករ ដែលនេះគឺជាឧទាហរណ៍មួយយ៉ាងសំខាន់ សម្រាប់សាធារណជនដែលបង្ហាញពីភាពខុសប្លែកគ្នា នៃការអនុវត្តចំណេះដឹង និងជំនាញដែលបានមកពីសាកលវិទ្យាល័យ។ការស្រាវជ្រាវរបស់ពួកគេ អាចជម្រុញយុវជនឱ្យយកចិត្តទុកដាក់អំពីប្រវត្តិសាស្រ្ត និងរឿងរ៉ាវជីវិតនៃប្រជាជននៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា។ ក្រុមរោងកុនជឿជាក់ថា ប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រមានសារសំខាន់ណាស់ ចំពោះបច្ចុប្បន្ន ហើយអាចជួយយើងឱ្យយល់អំពីអ្វីដែលជាសម័យទំនើប នៃជីវិតរស់នៅសព្វថ្ងៃនេះ។
Tum Yuriphal, Ly Roset, and Hun Sokagna stand high above the street to examine the facade of the Battambang Cinema and record architectural survey notes. Mr. Tes Salorn stands aside after opening the door for the group. RoungKon Project exists in the intersection of art, science, and community history. At times this is a challenging place to do work, because in today’s society many people are not used to this mix of research, art, and history. This is not a problem unique to Cambodia, because all over the world young people are forced to choose a career fast, to think only about success in their professional life, and it takes strength and will to stand up for your passion and your community. RoungKon Project is an example of just that, and I hope that students and the youth in Cambodia and globally can be inspired by them. ទុំ យូរីផល លី រ៉សេត និង ហ៊ុន សុកញា ឈរនៅយ៉រជាន់ទីពីរនៃរោងកុនបាត់ដំបង ដើម្បីធ្វើការស្ទង់មតិស្ថាបត្យកម្ម។ លោកទេស សាលន់ កំពុងឈរជាមួយពួកគេ។ គម្រោងរោងកុនមាននៅចំនុចប្រសព្វនៃសិល្បះវិទ្យាសាស្រ្ត និងប្រវត្តិសាស្រ្តសហគមន៍។ ទន្ទឹមនឹងនេះ វាជាការងារមួយដ៏លំបាក ព្រោះនៅក្នុងសង្គមសព្វថ្ងៃមនុស្សជាច្រើន មិនយល់ច្បាស់ពីការស្រាវជ្រាវសិល្បះនិងប្រវត្តិសាស្រ្តទេ។ បញ្ហានេះមិនមែនជាបញ្ហាតែមួយគត់នៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជាទេ ពីព្រោះមានមនុស្សវ័យក្មេងទូទាំងពិភពលោក ត្រូវបានបង្ខំឱ្យជ្រើសរើសអាជីពលឿនពេក និងគិតតែពីភាពជោគជ័យនៅក្នុងជីវិតវិជ្ជាជីវៈរបស់ពួកគេតែប៉ុណ្ណោះ។ ការជ្រើសរើសផ្លូវខុសគ្នា មិនមែនជាការងាយស្រួលនោះទេ។ យុវជនទាំងនេះមានកម្លាំង និងឆន្ទៈខ្លាំងដើម្បីការពារផលប្រយោជន៍ និងសហគមន៍របស់ពួកគេ។ គម្រោងរោងកុនគឺជាឧទាហរណ៍មួយ ដែលខ្ញុំសង្ឃឹមថាសិស្ស និងយុវវ័យនៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ព្រមទាំងពិភពលោកអាចទទួលបានការបំផុសគំនិតពីពួកគេ។
Tum Yuriphal and Hun Sokagna crouch down in front of the old Governor’s Palace in Battambang during an architectural tour of the city led by Mr. Som Sangvasak. The three people discuss the urban layout of the city, the changes over time from past to present, and how and why cinemas were built in specific areas of the city. Follow more about the RoungKon Project on their facebook page, at Kon Len Khnhom Arts Space in Phnom Penh, where they are research residents, and on their website roungkonproject.com. ទុំ យូរីផល និង ហ៊ុន សុកញ្ញា ក្រាបចុះក្រោមនៅមុខព្រះបរមរាជវាំងនៅបាត់ដំបង ខណះពេលនៃដំណើរទស្សនកិច្ចស្ថាបត្យកម្មនៃទីក្រុង ដែលដឹកនាំដោយលោកសំ សង្វាសាក់មនុស្សបីនាក់ពិភាក្សាអំពីប្លង់ទីក្រុង ដែលជាការផ្លាស់ប្តូរតាមពេលវេលាពីអតីតកាល រហូតដល់បច្ចុប្បន្ន និងរបៀបព្រមទាំងមូលហេតុដែលរោងកុន ត្រូវបានគេសាងសង់នៅក្នុងតំបន់ជាក់លាក់នៃទីក្រុង។ សូមស្វែងយល់បន្ថែមអំពីគម្រោង រោងកុន នៅ Facebook: Roungkon Project និងនៅលើទំព័ររបស់ Kon Len Khnhom My Place កន្លែងខ្ញុំ ជាកន្លែងដែលពួកគេជាអ្នកស្រាវជ្រាវនៅទីនេះ។ សូមមើល Website របស់ពួកគេ Roungkonproject.com
The photos in this exhibition were taken between November and June of 2017 in the towns of Kampot, Steung Treng, Kampong Cham, Battambang, and Kratie in Cambodia. I used a Canon Rebel T6 DSLR camera and relied on natural light only. The work on display here represents some key observations that came out of a multi-disciplinary and mixed-method research project funded by the U.S. Fulbright program entitled “Recovering Cambodia’s Golden Age of Cinema.”
Going to the Movies:
Learning about the History of Cinema in Cambodia through Memories
People have been going to the movies in Cambodia since the era of the French Colonial Protectorate. A few cinemas across the country were built to attract an audience of French colonial bureaucrats, businessmen and local cinephiles. The real boom in the cinema industry began after Cambodia won independence from the French in 1953. In the following years there was a strong push from the state and government, led by His Royal Highness King Norodom Sihanouk, to develop local film talent and a local film industry. This effort coincided with state-sponsored development of industry, education, architecture, roads and transportation, and more. For example, in the 1960s the government subsidized movie ticket sales for local cinema owners, which was one factor that affected the growth of single-screen cinemas in provincial capitals all across Cambodia, making the experience of going to the movies much more accessible than it had been in previous years.
Combined with state support, individuals with vision and drive took up their passions and began to make their own movies. Khmer-language films burst onto the local cinema scene in the late 1950s to early ’60s and gained wider and wider traction inside Cambodia and throughout the region. Many people today refer to this period as the Golden Age of Cinema. By the early 1970s some actors, like the esteemed Ms. Dy Saveth, were shooting three films per day! More than 400 films were produced and released between 1960 and 1975 in Cambodia, and today you can find clips from some of these heritage films on YouTube or find high-quality films in the archives here at the Bophana Center. It is suspected that only about 10%, or 40, films have survived to the present. A fantastic resource on this era is the book Cultures of Independence: An Introduction to Cambodian Arts and Culture in the 1950s and 1960s (2001) written and published by Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture in Phnom Penh, which includes many wonderful interviews with the people who created and experienced that era.
A renewed interest in the history of pop culture, film, music, art, and architecture has inspired documentary and feature films such as Le Sommeil D’Or (Golden Slumbers, 2011) a documentary made by Davy Chou, The Last Reel (2014) a feature film directed by Kulikar Sotho, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock & Roll (2014) a documentary directed by John Pirozzi, and The Man Who Built Cambodia (2015) a short documentary directed by Christopher Rompré.
Many efforts are on the rise in Cambodia to engage the public with the history of arts, cinema, and architecture and to work for better preservation. Khmer Architecture Tours (www.ka-tours.org) takes people around Phnom Penh to showcase the stunning architectural history of the city. RoungKon Project (www.roungkonproject.com) works to document heritage cinemas and record related oral histories. AmazingCambodia is a Facebook page with extensive photographic archives of heritage buildings and culture. And an event called មួយម៉ឺនអាល័យ (Muoy Meun Alay, Ten-Thousand Regrets) is organized every year by the Preiah Soriya group to bring heritage films to the public.
These efforts, films, and research projects have been an incredible source of inspiration and knowledge for me. In 2013 Davy Chou’s film Golden Slumbers inspired me to think about memory, shadow, light, and how public spaces like movie theaters have had many lives. In 2015, after spending time away from research on cinema, I felt compelled to learn more about the history of the industry in Cambodia, including the history of movie theaters, but also people’s memories and connections to the cinema industry, both audiences and professionals. I wanted to learn about memory work and the challenges and special opportunities that memory work and oral history represent.
As a writer and researcher, it’s important to dig up as many resources as possible that reflect historical fact, both archival and contemporary, but memory is also a valid a doorway to understanding the past. There are many examples of places, peoples, cultures, and eras where documents are missing or weren’t used at all. Many cultures have long, rich histories of oral storytelling and only more recent histories of wide-spread literacy. Even though it can seem like literacy and written documents are the best, most advanced signs of culture, that is a biased point of view. We should not push oral histories and memories to the periphery of our knowledge because we assume that written documents are more true or more reliable.
Some things exist only in memory. The challenges of engaging with memory compared to reading a book or watching a film reel are extensive and, at times, overwhelming. Furthermore, since memory cannot be trusted to tell the absolute truth, it complicates a researcher’s job. What is our purpose when we take the focus away from providing insight? When we have no intention to become an expert? Objectivity remains an important goal, a concept to think about critically. But memory work is possibly a different way of doing things, of initiating, of asking questions and listening. Traditionally, we are supposed to separate our emotions and intuitions from our work as academics. But, as a poet, to me this seems like a deception, because they can never be separate. In fact, memory work is emotional and intimately personal for both the researcher and the subject. Witnessing the many ways that people remember and sitting with them to bear through the joys and the sadness of their stories has made me question the perceived boundary between researcher and subject. Some days, the boundary evaporates, and I learn as much about myself, my own histories, as I do about the history of cinema in Cambodia.
There is no single method of evoking memory, no one way to do oral histories. At the very least, it’s important to go places and ask people if they want to remember with you, if they want to share. For my research, sometimes it was enough to ask someone how many movie theaters were in town and when were the theaters destroyed or shut down? To this question, Mr. Som Sangvasak, who lives and works in Battambang, spoke about the cinemas in Battambang city reopening after the war and genocide of the 1970s. His best cinema memories are from the 1980s when he and his school friends would pile in to see a Russian or Vietnamese film, or occasionally a Hong Kong film. For him, the cinema was a sauna because there was no air conditioning. After the movie finished the audience would pour out of the exits, soaking wet. But it was worth it, he said, because they kept going back over and over again.
Another method I tried was to invite someone to watch a series of film clips from the Cambodian heritage films of the 1960s-’70s with me, on my cellphone where I had saved a copy of the YouTube video that I had edited together from digital copies of films. This activity brought many different memories to the surface. One man who works for the Ministry of Culture in Kampong Cham cried tears of joy while watching the clips with me. He was overcome with emotion, mostly happy, because he had not known where or how to find any remnants of the films of his childhood, films that he saw in the theaters in Kampong Cham city.
In another experience, a group of grandmothers preparing food on the temple grounds in Steung Treng, which took me eight hours to get to on a bus, agreed to chat with me. We watched the video together. The four women tossed memories back and forth between them: who they thought was the sexiest leading man; who was the most virtuous leading lady; how much the tickets cost to see a movie in town compared to the price of a kilo of rice or pork; what films were screened in the 1980s after the war; and the sad fate of the old cinema in town. One of the group was very quiet during this exchange, and I asked her if she liked the film clips, if she had ever been to the cinema in Steung Treng. She told me that she had been in high school in Phnom Penh during those years. Then she went silent. She said, “I don’t really remember anything anymore. It isn’t clear to me what I remember.” In that way she helped me understand that silence is also a story, a memory in its own right.
I didn’t heroically discover any old cinemas in Cambodia. The buildings have been there all along for the communities that are deeply connected to them. Movie theaters are repositories of memory. Whether a memory about the hot, steamy crowds inside or a memory of a film that touched the heart deeply, or the experience of youth, excitement, and connection that cinema brings. As long as people remember, then no matter how many lives a cinema has, as a hair salon, a restaurant, a bank, a public park, the building will always carry the specter of cinema within the community. Even long after the building is gone. These specters can teach us to ask critical questions about urbanism, modernity, economic development, pop culture, and how macro-systems and historical processes are experienced intimately by individuals and communities. Specters of the screen can inspire us to embrace the complexities of our pasts and can encourage us to face our futures with a deeper understanding of the challenges at hand.
I had the privilege, in these past months in Cambodia, to watch people light up with the memory of going to the movies. And after hearing their stories, I also had the privilege of standing in some of the places their memories call home. Walking inside these old cinemas, I felt almost as if I could see the specters of their stories playing between the shadow and the light in the darkness. Maybe it is impossible to photograph memories. But to capture a feeling, both haunted and joyful, I took photos of the light within the dark. I share these photos today in the hopes that you become curious, that you feel something of the past and the present collide, that you leave with an appreciation for memory, as fleeting as it may be.