Far East Film Festival 19

Udine Italy April 21st/ April 29th 2017
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema

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The Last Reel

There are films whose relevance transcends mere narrative, figurative and cinematographic success. Sotho Kulikar’s directing debut, The Last Reel, is clearly in this category. This is without taking anything away from the creative efforts of the director and her technical-artistic crew. 

The Last Reel opens with the noisy, eddying images of a fun fair, where the young Sophoun is spending an enjoyable evening with her boyfriend Veasna. She is a rebellious, free-spirited student, her assertive character not looked upon kindly either at home or at university. He is a small-time crook, head of a gang of motorcyclists. This unlikely Romeo and Juliet represent the new generation of Cambodians, attracted by the bling of modern-day consumerists Western society, most of whom are unaware of the painful past of their own country. 

A past that explodes into Sophoun’s life when, one evening, Veasna deserts her following a fight with a rival gang. She goes to an abandoned cinema used as a motorcycle parking lot, and there she meets the old owner, Sokha, intent on seeing an old film. The film is The Long Way Home, which starred the rising star, Sothea, whom Sophoun recognises as her mother Srey Mom (played by the real diva of classic Khmer cinema, Dy Saveth). Sokha tells Sophoun that the film was shot just before the taking of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge, and that the last reel of the film was lost. With the aim of trying to help her mother – who is married to a strict colonel who probably played a part in the country’s bloody past – come to terms with the traumas that afflict her, Sophoun decides to find a way to reshoot the last scene of the film, so that it can be shown to today’s public. 

A melodrama, which spans family and history, a strong feminist vein running through it, The Last Reel is a kind of narrative reworking of the excellent documentary Le Sommeil d’or (2011) by Davy Chou, in which the young French-Cambodian director rediscovered the lost golden years of Khmer cinema, portraying the events that took place, the tragedies and exile of the directors, actors and crew persecuted during the Khmer Rouge regime, trying to re-evoke from collective memories the images and sounds that have been lost in time. 

Sotho Kulikar also takes as her starting point the ‘(re)discovery’ of films from the past, delving into the collective traumas of the Cambodian people. Along the way to completing The Long Way Home, Sophoun makes many discoveries; secrets, lies, truths, that not only provide a history lesson, but also, delving deeper, unveil the secrets of the human soul. In the messy emotional web and sense of guilt, both past and present, Sophoun ends up realizing that the best path to take, although not an easy one, is that of forgiveness and understanding. The conflict between “the true end which I hate and the lie which I love” is resolved in a final reel that represents an alternative between past and present, between truth and fiction. So at the premier of the ‘reconstructed’ film the various players in the painful events of the country can finally sit side by side in harmony with a present/future that can be dealt with. 

With the help of an international crew – mainly from Australia – Sotho Lulikar has in some way transferred Sophoun’s experience into her way or movie-making (or vice versa). The Last Reel is a deeply honest, generous film, at times a little naive and sentimental in its more melodramatic moments in which the director has invested body and soul to recall the past of her people and to help them overcome the trauma it has caused. She has an admirable faith in cinema, in its power and magic (its healing powers too). As Sophoun announces in the finale, and something that is easy to believe thanks to The Last Reel, now that the past has been faced, “new stories are ready to be told by our own generation.”
Paolo Bertolin
Film director: 
SOTHO Kulikar
Year: 
2014
Running time: 
105'

Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4WCajzWNYU

Photogallery

  • The Last Reel 01
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