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A triumphant celebration of cinema took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia the weekend of the 20th October, after the All Asian Independent Film Festival and ÉCU, The European Independent Film Festival launched the inaugural On-the-Road-Tour in the city’s prestigious Legend Cinema.

ÉCU president Scott Hillier chatting to attendees of the On-The-Road event
The On-The-Road-Tour audience in Phnom Penh’s Legend Cinema.

Across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 39 films from 22 different countries were screened, showcasing the very best independent cinema from across the world.

An audience favourite from the ‘European Animated Film’ category was the Italian film Caramelle. This magical-realism short from director Matteo Panebarco merges 3D animation with real photographs of the Italian port city of Ravenna. Following a middle-aged woman who visits her father’s grave and finds an empty sweet-wrapper balanced neatly on top of the stone, the events that follow provoke a charming examination of family, grief and intergenerational connection. The film is profoundly touching, and, despite the title Caramelle, is never too sickly sweet, thanks to the muted colour palette and finely-tuned balance between sombreness and dry humour.

Still from Caramelle (2022)

Srwsht Abarash’s Room 217, meanwhile, kept spectators on the edge of their seats as one of the highlights of the ‘Arab special selection’ category. This psychological thriller from Iraq follows a young man who checks into a hotel room one rainy night, only to become immersed in a series of vivid hallucinations, in which he appears to be repeating the same moments of time again and again. With a heavily claustrophobic atmosphere reminiscent of David Lynch films, Room 217 is an unnerving examination of paranoia, sanity, and the thin line between reality and imagination.

Zheer Faraidoon in Room 217 (2021)

Both the All Asian Independent Film Festival and ÉCU were also proud to be able to screen some of the experimental films selected for previous festivals; one of which was Otonashi. Described by the director Martin Gerigk as a “philosophical voyage through inner and outer experiences of human existence”, this German experimental short uses geometry and abstract shapes in a series of animated collages to visualise a piece of music composed by Gerigk himself. The composition, formed mainly of violins and percussion, aims to capture the Buddhist experience of silence, with the film’s title ‘Otonashi’ meaning ‘soundlessness’ or ‘quiet’ in Japanese.

Each day also saw a filmmaking masterclass with renowned filmmaker Scott Hillier. With focuses on Cinematography, Directing and Marketing, these professional ‘Hollywood Skills’ workshops provided expert insight into an array of skill sets, from mastering storylines, aesthetics and film endings to understanding work ethic, making trailers and festival submissions.

Attendees network at the On-The-Road event

The AAIFF and ÉCU were delighted to be able to share the very best of the world’s independent cinema with this audience in Phnom Penh, and we hope that many more budding filmmakers will have been inspired to pick up a camera and start sharing their stories. We’re looking forward to seeing where the On-the-Road-Tour takes us next… See you soon!

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