Five Questions for the Anti-Archive

Five Questions for Anti-Archive

By Glen Golightly

Anti-Archive is a Cambodian film production company formed in 2014 to produce dramatic and documentary features and short films.

Directors Kavich Neang and Danech San along with producer Daniel Mattes answered questions about the production company’s efforts.

Q: Who and what is Anti-Archive?

Kavich : We are a group of people from different backgrounds and countries but have come together to produce our own films. Anti-Archive is a Cambodian film production company producing documentaries and feature films that have premiered in film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Locarno, Busan and Rotterdam. Since Cambodia is so often framed strongly around the Khmer Rouge or poverty, the company’s name “Anti-Archive” hopes to encourage people to rethink the country’s past and the way that we engage with it.

Daniel: Like Kavich says, it is not at all a rejection or denial of the past, but actually pushes us to consider how Cambodia’s history and collective memory relates to the present. We ask questions about the ways history can repeat itself or how stories left unsaid from the past continue to appear today in the form of trauma, mystery or even desire.

Q: What stories do you look to tell?

Kavich : Right now, I am interested in the current changes facing Cambodia, for example, its fast development, and the memories of the people.

Danech : I am looking for emotions and feelings in the stories, so the stories could be anything related to time, space, dreams, human complexities or something that isn’t easy to express in the society we live in.

Q: What filmmaking schools and styles influence your filmmakers?

Kavich : I like Hsiao-Hsien Hou and Apichatpong Weerasethakul for their unique and natural way of telling their stories.

Danech : Watching films has inspired me in so many ways. I first watched 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and I was struck how I felt, even if I didn’t completely understand what the film was about. Later, I discovered films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and David Lynch, both of whom I really admire and who fascinate me with their way of making films

Q: How is making films in Cambodia the same or different than other parts of the world?

Kavich : Cambodia has no film school, cinema, or funding to support arts and filmmaking in general. In order to make short films in particular, we have relied heavily on crowdfunding through our international networks of friends and supporters.

Danech : Of course, making films in Cambodia is different from everywhere, but I think somehow we share similarities of struggle and joy, especially in making independent films. In general, there is no film school and for those who are interested in filmmaking, they have to find their own ways to learn.

Occasionally, there are film workshops about writing, directing, cinematography or lighting and so on, but these won’t be enough to become a professional. Besides the problem of funding, we don’t have government support, so we have to self-fund, seek overseas grants or find private investors.

Q: What else would you like us to know about Anti-Archive?

Kavich : The project pages at have the latest news on each of the projects and completed films.

Daniel: We would like to emphasize how indebted Anti-Archive and its directors are to the filmmakers who carved out the space before us in Phnom Penh’s film scene.

Additionally, Cambodia Town Film Festival is unique in the way it engages the community links between Long Beach and Phnom Penh, so it’s especially important for us.

We also must recognize the pioneers of Cambodia’s film scene; they made films in the 1980s under tough conditions with no equipment or infrastructure. That includes master filmmaker Rithy Panh, who not only made his own works of art, but who also created audiovisual institutions like Bophana Center in Phnom Penh and educated the next generation of filmmakers like Kavich Neang.

Panh’s Graves Without A Name and Neang’s Last Night I Saw You Smiling are both screening at CTFF 2019.

This serves as testament to the work and to the success of what Panh has accomplished not only as a filmmaker, but as a humanist and educator.

We can only keep working and making our films. We hope the industry will continue to expand, from the seeds planted in the early 1980s, which Panh has nursed so intensely, and will have the freedom to grow into new imaginations and forms.

Two Anti-Archive Films Screening at CTFF 2019:

Photo credits: Anti-Archive

Last Night I Saw You Smiling

R/T: 77 minutes

Director: Kavich Neang

Filmmaker Kavich Neang’s deeply meditative documentary belies the turmoil of residents being kicked out of Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building after the government sells the land to a Japanese company. Neang grew up in one of the building’s apartments and his father still lives there. The government promises to relocate everyone, but as Cambodians and the rest of us understand, words and actions often do not match.

Photo credits: Anti-Archive

A Million Years

R/T: 20 minutes

Director: Danech San

A young woman relaxes with a friend at a riverside resort. As they chat about their experiences growing up, she slips into a parallel universe with a stranger. Fear becomes the topic and she realizes an existence beyond the physical world we live in.

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