Australian comedy in Cambodia

BY MICK NEWNHAM

Mr Bilguun Ganbaatar from Mongolia (left) and Mr Sophea Chea from Bophana Centre, Cambodia, introducing Before Rising Up the Rank (Mongolia, 1966)

The NFSA has supplied Australian archival film classics to Cambodia’s Technicolor Foundation Film Festival and NFSA Senior Researcher Mick Newnham enjoys the audience reaction.

For the past two years the Technicolor Foundation has run an international film festival devoted to archival films sourced from across the world. The festival is run specifically in Cambodia to demonstrate the importance of film to memory, referencing the destruction of Cambodia’s memory during the Pol Pot era.

 

Each year there is a specific theme. This year’s is ‘laughter’. For the first time the NFSA supplied films to the festival – the 1938 George Wallace classic Let George Do It and They’re a Weird Mob from 1966. Two different styles of humour but both distinctly Australian.

Let George Do It screened to, among others, several busloads of Cambodian school children. The slapstick style and George Wallace’s polished comedic routines made this film very accessible and the whole theatre echoed to their laughter.

I must admit to being a little uncertain about the reception of They’re a Weird Mob as the film relies on an understanding of Australian culture in the 1960s. I was completely surprised (and pleased) to see a very good audience size and response.

The festival also ran a seminar series covering searching for lost films, film preservation and restoration, and a session on developing student filmmakers. I was involved in panels on preservation/restoration and also on developing projects, where I used the disaster recovery workshop that was held in Laos the week before as a case study. The case study examined the way we ran a training needs analysis and tailored the training from the results.

One seminar that I was especially interested in had a presentation from film students from Myanmar. Last year I travelled to Myanmar to make contact with audiovisual collection stewards such as the Myanmar Motion Picture Enterprise (MMPE). This seminar created the perfect opportunity to continue my work from the previous year, connect with a group of students and create the awareness of preservation at this early stage of their careers. While audiovisual archiving has come a long way in the past couple of decades it will rely on people like the Myanmar students to continue the important work of retaining memory.