Eco-Festival and Environment week

Promotion of the events includes students in animal costumes.

Promotion of the events includes students in animal costumes.

It’s just a few days to go to the beginning of Environment Week here in Cambodia. Last year for the inaugural E-Week I organised the Environmental & Conservation Film Festival in conjunction with Conservation International. That was 2nd such film festival and as a new organiser for 2008 I decided the priority was to make sure it was more accessible to the Khmer public. I expanded it from the original venue at the French Cultural Centre, which only holds around 120 people, to also show films at lunchtimes at the Institute of Technology, where a display of environmental information was being held. This move more than tripled the number of Khmer viewers from 2007.

Students at ITC watching the films in 2008

Students at ITC watching the films in 2008

I also decided to try to get some prizes to offer as I wanted to try to make the competition more attractive to young Khmers. In the end we had 4 awards, Best Short Film, Best Khmer Film and Best Film as well as a photo competition on the subject of “My Environment”. As I only had less than 4 months to organise the whole event, including trying to get enough new entries for each of the categories, prizes were vital.

Wildlife Alliance kindly gave $2,000 towards prizes and we were able to offer fantastic awards such as a small video makers kit with a cheap camera, microphone, tripod and Headphone and a bag for the Best Short FIlm. For Best Khmer Film we gave away a very nice HDD video camera and for the Photo Comp a digital SLR from Canon. The Best Film award was expected to be won by one of a handful of films made by international filmmakers so in this instance we only offered a hand carved wooden Kouprey. The Kouprey is a huge wild cow and the national animal of Cambodia, sadly most experts believe it is now extinct as there have been no credible reports of them since the early 1980’s.

Film Festival 2008 display area at CCF

I received some great feed back on the event from NGO’s and one working with student groups was particularly pleased to see their students feeling re-energised by weeks the events. The winner of the Best Khmer film was a young student from Rattanakiri, Nong Sam Ouen who had 2 entries in the competition. His films were outstanding and top local TV station CTN approached him regarding possible work in the future.

This years events are going to be different. No competition, as there are almost no new films to show. Pretty much every environmental film ever made in Cambodia has been seen at the last 2 film festivals so I decided to concentrate on showing the earlier films to more people. With the assistance of the French Embassy I managed  to secure permission to hold an outdoor event in what is probably the most public venue in the country, Wat Botum Gardens. This “Eco-Festival” idea, which I have been working towards for the last 7 months, has ended up being a much reduced event, as the fund raising for Environment Week was not very effective. In the end I have films being screened at 4 venues and a Khmer language environmental display, from 20 NGO’s, being held at the Institute of Technology and at Wat Botum Gardens. Just praying for good weather, it is the wet season after all.

My next blog will be after the event is over so I will let you know how it went.

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About Allan Michaud

English Wildlife Photographer/Environmental Filmmaker based in Cambodia
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