Interview with Chanrado Sok and Kongkea Vann, directors of Somleng Reatrey [Sound of the Night]
Monday 7 February 2022, by ,
Vibol and his brother Kea sell noodles on a motorized cart every night on the streets of Phnom Penh. They often face troublesome threats from gangsters and thieves, even if these very people are their only customers. As the city is growing around them, they consider their unstable income and imagine a different future.
Kongkea Vann, can you tell us a bit about your inspirations and the story behind Somleng Reatrey?
First, I met Chanrado Sok, who is the co-director of Somleng Reatrey. He suggested making this story and that’s how we started writing together. By the way, the reason why I made this movie was because I was fascinated by the sound of bamboo that you can hear during night times. Those typical sounds signal throughout the neighborhoods that mobile noodle sellers are passing by and noodle soup is a popular dish for people who work at night. I have known this story since I was a child, but nowadays this tradition almost disappeared due to the growing economy, however some people still face economic hardship. So, I wanted to show the audience that behind the high-rise buildings, the way of living has been changing (in?) our whole society because of rapid development of the last 5 years. Chanrado’s home, the White Building, has been taken down because the city is in a rush to rise to another level and most citizens are unconsciously becoming more selfish because of money.
Chanrado Sok, you also work as a documentarist. Do you think this affects your directing when you make fictions films?
I think that fiction film is not affecting my directing, but it does affect my story, that makes it stronger and stronger. Fiction film as a story which is made by the logistics of documentary. If both are in one, I can see how reality in fiction can be like. During every step of my script and screenplay I always look back to the way I make documentary. Documentary is basic to cinema that everyone should learn. Fiction film is part of documentary film, documentary is a part of fiction because I cannot make fiction without reality of documentary. I live in reality and reality is a document that I cannot erase. But I can make up and write more pages in a next sentence or a next link without hesitation because I am who I am in the story I have created.
Kongkea Vann, this is your first film, as a director and a producer. What were the main challenges that you faced during this experience?
It’s a low budget project where I need to spend much time to develop other skills as a producer… In fact, I am director and DOP. In Cambodia we do not have much financial support from other production companies, especially for an independent project. I need to balance myself in different positions where I don’t even know how to process, however, I made this all happen, but I’m learning from my mistakes a lot.
You wrote in the director’s note: « Everyone around (the character) chases after wealth without realising that it is a double-edged sword. » Can you develop?
Whichever direction one takes in life, it often can exclude or cut off other directions. If our lives are pushed by speed into one way only, speed cuts through time and space, leaves us disconnected from where we are. It can also tear a community apart, a family, even an individual. In a fast-paced environment, there seems to be no time to keep balance between different dimensions of life, as if the pace of life is cut by the chase and leaves less peaceful living.
What is your definition of a good film?
For me, a good film is a story that makes people feel that they are in the film. It can make the audience understand what the story wants to show. A good film can show the impact and feelings of a person and make people around them feel that way too. A good film is not about technical quality only, but it also must include emotional, character, feeling, mood of the story and so on, especially if the film has shared a reality or socially necessary things within the story, I find those films good.