Logline: ‘You wouldn’t expect to find the Blues in a place like Phnom Penh’.
Length: 20 minutes (with a 10 minute film festival cut almost complete)
Director: Tim Purdie
Producer: Tim Purdie & Bunhom Chhorn
About the director and producer:
Tim Purdie is a documentary filmmaker living off-grid in central Victoria, Australia. He’s passionate about the bush, social justice, travel and good music.
Bunhom Chhorn, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide, has been exploring themes of injustice and the human spirit through filmmaking for 15 years.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Producers, Film Festival Directors and journalists
Made in association with: Teepee Media, Krom and Musik & Film LLC
Release date: May 3rd 2016. A shorter 10 minute festival version is currently being completed and will be submitted to film festivals shortly.
Congratulations! Why did you make a film called KROM: Songs From The Noir and the Mekong Heart?
Firstly, thanks for your interest in the film and for providing a wonderful platform for filmmakers! We made this film, first and foremost, because we love the music of Krom. Chris Minko and the Krom team previously composed the soundtrack to a documentary feature film we made called ‘Camp 32’. That film followed Bunhom (co-producer) on a journey back to Cambodia to find the undocumented labour camp where he was incarcerated by the Khmer Rouge as a boy.
Krom’s soundtrack was hauntingly beautiful and far exceeded our expectations. On top of this we believe that Krom are an important band who need to be heard. They’re unique, insanely talented and give strong voice to the oppressed and powerless.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Crossing cultural lines, Krom fuse the western blues with traditional Khmer music to create a whole new genre of music they call The Mekong Delta Blues. They transcend music to explore and raise awareness of deeply important humanitarian issues facing South East Asia and other parts of the world. Krom are Cambodia’s first and only protest band. If you’re a lover of good music or someone who cares about Human Rights this is a film you should see.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
The two key creatives behind the music of Krom draw on their own personal experiences to enrich their music. Australian born musician Chris Minko spent many years working with disabled landmine victims in Cambodia empowering them through sport. He now calls Cambodia home.
Grieving after the death of his wife, Chris swears on her grave in Bangkok that he will write a 14 track album for her. Needing female Khmer vocals on the album, he soon discovers Sophea, who grew up in Phnom Penh’s biggest slum. Through Sophea’s many talents in the arts she was able to find a path out of poverty.
Chris and Sophea form Krom along with other Cambodian and Western musicians. They tackle many universal themes through their music – Human trafficking, sexual slavery, pedophilia, injustice, grief, drug abuse and terrorism. Some of these are explored in the film. They also sing beautiful songs about their love of Cambodia.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Originally we planned to make a short 5 minute promo type video that Krom could use in social media. Whilst they create a beautiful sonic palette, the dark themes they explore can be hard going for a new listener. We wanted to give some context and backstory to their music and the band members themselves.
Whilst attending the Cambodia International Film Festival where our film ‘Camp 32’ was screening, we arranged to spend a couple of days filming Krom. We soon discovered we had something far more interesting than a 5 minute promo on our hands. Once back in Australia we worked closely with Chris Minko to gather additional photos, video clips and to arrange further interviews remotely through skype and the generosity of videographers based in South East Asia.
We then cut together a 20 minute version of the film which is currently being used by Krom to promote their new album ‘Mekong Delta Blues’. We have almost completed a more polished 10 minute version of the film which we will be submitting to film festivals soon. However, we see enormous potential in pursuing a longer form documentary on Krom.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback on the 20 minute version has been extremely positive so far. Personally I would have loved more time in production than the two days we had on a fleeting trip to Cambodia. I’m itching to get back there to spend more time documenting Krom’s journey. I’m enormously proud of what we have all achieved – many people contributed their time and skills to bringing it all together.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Time will tell. Most of the people who have seen it are already fans of Krom’s music. I did screen it at my local community ‘muso and film night’. They all found it very interesting and thanked me for screening it. I think the real test will come once the festival cut is screened to the general public.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I see it as a fantastic networking opportunity – a great way to connect with other filmmakers and with people associated with film festivals.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Film Festival directors, journalists and producers who see merit in a longer form documentary.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I want the audience to be entertained and engaged, to learn about the challenges facing Cambodia, to gain a unique insight into the process of making music, and to be inspired by both Chris and Sophea’s stories.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
We live in an age of terrorism, inequality is growing, and human trafficking is at its highest point in history, yet the prevalence of protest bands seems to be in decline. Why is this?
Would you like to add anything else?
Please visit Krom’s facebook page and show your support. If you like their music buy the album! www.facebook.com/KromSong/
I would also encourage people to take a look at the extraordinary photography of Jonathan Van Smit who provided some of his work in the clip of the film I’ve providedhttp://www.jonathanvansmit.com/
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We feel there is huge potential in making a longer form documentary on Krom with a focus on Chris Minko’s early years as a musician and activist in Melbourne, through to his turbulent time in a lawless Phnom Penh not long after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. He then formed a ragtag group of disabled volleyballers.
They went on to numerous World Cups where they became the second best team in the world and inspired the country. Sophea’s journey from the slums of Phnom Penh to become a highly respected dancer and singer warrants further exploration too.
Bunhom is currently working on an anthology of short films based on real childhood experiences during the time of the Khmer Rouge. Two of these stories have already been filmed, with three more currently in the final stages of scripting. We hope to gain some funding to complete the project.