Roung kon was found in 2016 by a group of architects and architecture students. It is a multi-disciplinary project that aims to promote and document all the 60s cinemas in Cambodia. The documentation will focus on all forms such as architecture drawings, interviews (with film makers, research scholars and ordinary people), Photo, filming, written documents and maps. The project will highlight the aspect of urban form of the cities through cinemas on how it reflects the ideology of Sangkum Reastr Niyum era’s city planning based on cultural engagement. All the materials will be free to access online for researchers, students, artists, architects and urbanists.
History of Cambodian Cinema
USIS Sponsored Course on Film Projection. Courtesy of US National Archives.
Films went in to Cambodia by the French. The first cinema in Phnom Penh named Brignon which was inaugurated in 1909, located in the riverside area. Follow by the Independence treatment between French Cambodian, there was the establishing of the film department in the Radio station which was responsible for controlling the imported foreign films for public screening, and most of the films were French. In mid-1950s, the Indian and Siam films were imported in Cambodia, however, the Indian were more popular than. Because it had many scenes related to the fairy tale, dances, singing which matched with Cambodian people. So it was the time that the Khmer films were started making. His majesty Norodom Sihanouk was the first Khmer film maker by making short films with using the 16 mm films in late 1940s. Then there were some Cambodians who went to study the technical training of film making at Institute des Hautes Études Cinétographique in France such as: Reoum Pon, Ear Bonnakar(Son of Ear Kars) and Sam Sam Al. However, there were another group of film makers who didn’t go studying into any film school, for they appreciated and loved the films which were very popular during that time. Most of them are Ivon Hem, Ly Bun Yim…. After that, they became the well-known film makers in 1960s and 70s. During 60s and 70s, the film was so popular, for many people were much interested in the Khmer films, so it made many cinemas increasing until 1974 there were around 30 cinemas in Phnom Penh. In 1973-74, the Khmer rouge troops came nearly the city, and there were the boom inside the cinema, so the government issued to stop screening. Until early 1975, the cinema owners decided to stop their businesses. Then all the cinemas were closed until the fall of Khmer rouge.
***Text extracts from the Birth of Cinema by Reyum Arts and culture Center. Please find out the full text from the book: Birth of Cinema, and the book Culture Independence, published by Reyum Arts and culture Center.