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The Last Reel unspools

Kulikar Sotho has a production company in Cambodia, servicing incoming films including Annie Goldson’s Brother Number One. Now, she also has her own award-winning debut feature hitting the international festival circuit.

Back in 2011, to accompany the release of Brother Number One, I did an extended interview with Sotho, who was Brother Number One’s line producer and fixer in Cambodia. Since Brother Number One she’s worked on the Asia shoots for Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Aussie title Wish You Were Here featuring Antony Starr and more recent Aussie title Ruin from directors Michael Cody and Amiel Courtin-Wilson.

Sotho’s own debut feature, The Last Reel, recently had its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival which had a strong ASEAN focus this year. Sotho and her film won Tokyo’s inaugural Spirit of Asia award.

This week The Last Reel screens in two more festivals, having its domestic premiere in the Cambodia International Film Festival. It also plays the returning Singapore IFF, from where The Hollywood Reporter gave it a a good review.

Kulikar Sotho

Kulikar Sotho won the Tokyo intermational Film Festival’s Spirit of Asoa award for The Last Reel

“A lost film, buried beneath Cambodia’s killing fields, reveals different versions of the truth, claims the publicity material.

Although the story is a contemporary one the one thing most people know about Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge, drives not only the film’s storyline but also the lives of many of its principals.

The story centres around the discovery of a film that’s lain unfinished since 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over the country, banning filmmaking and executing many of those who’d worked in the industry. The character of the actress in that unfinished film is played by Dy Saveth, one of Cambodia’s most revered actresses from the pre-Khmer Rouge period.

The Last Reel

In 1975 Daveth escaped Cambodia and survived, living in France for 20 years, although the same can’t be said for most of her work. Only 30 of the c300 films made in Cambodia before 1975 have survived. There’s no doubt that autobiographical events inform The Last Reel and the will to make it.

There are also inevitable comparisons with Cambodian documentaries referencing the period, especially Rithy Panh’s Oscar-nominated The Missing Picture which, coincidentally, is playing another ASEAN-focused festival this week, Laos’ Luang Prabang Film Festival.

Another well-known Cambodian doco about the legacy of the Khmer Rouge, Davy Chou’s Golden Slumbers, features interviews with The Last Reel’s Saveth.

The Last Reel image gallery

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