Cambodia, INTERVIEWS, NEWS, United Kingdom — 01/30/2011 9:44 PM

Rob Lemkin ” we are looking for Asian partners on Enemies of the People Part 2″

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The co-director and producer of “Enemies of the People” speaks about the doc and his future projects in and about Asia.


. Can you present yourself ?

I am from Oxford, England. I studied Classics at university. I have worked for BBC and Channel Four and as an independent director/producer through my production company, Old Street Films. I have made around 50 documentaries for TV.

. In 2009, you produced and directed “Ennemies of the People”. How did you start this project ? How did you met and chose Tet Sambath ?


I have made many films in South East and East Asia. I made a film when at the BBC about someone who was a friend of Pol Pot. He told me I should look into the Khmer Rouge story as it may be not quite what we all thought. So I went to Cambodia in 2006 with a plan to make a film about the Khmer Rouge coming to trial and Sambath was my fixer. When I realised what he was doing I asked him if we could make the film together 50-50. I had no decent film without him and he had no real film at all (beyond taped interviews) without me. So we agreed and spent the next 3 years making it.

What was the main difficulties in this project ?


Translating 160 hours of material was very hard. People on the film were admitting to acts which could be construed as crimes and so used by the tribunal. Our undertaking to them was to put the material into the public domain (subject to our independent editorial judgement) but not to provide it to the court as evidence. The secure translation process we evolved was complex, time-consuming and expensive. But it worked!

What is best souvenir during this project ?

The best is probably something from afterwards. We organised a videoconference in Los Angeles and Bangkok where the perpetrators of our film met with survivors/victims of the killing fields for a 3-hour live dialogue. Both sides in this terrible and lingering conflict had been brought together by the common experience of our film.


In how many countries have you managed to distribute this doc ?

For cinema: USA, UK, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Kosovo, Thailand.
For TV: worldwide
For DVD: in process

What was the budget of the doc ?

Budget was around GBP 300k.


In which country did he get the best audience success ?

USA was great because of the strong story of the film, also many Cambodian-Americans there. UK is great – perhaps because I am British. Former Yugoslavia countries have been great because of the historical resonances. Asia we are not sure yet, though the limited screenings in Cambodia have been very exciting.

Did you managed to distribute the doc in Cambodia ?

The government did not give us a licence to show in the cinemas (due to politically controversial nature of material). So we just showed so far in a small art house German-owned, Goethe-Institut financed where it sells out every time. We are working on a national grassroots roll out for later.

. The doc won outstanding documentary award at the 2010 Hong Kong International Film Festival but didn’t had a large distribution in Asia and South asian countries. How do you explain it ?

We were hopeful of a Japanese deal but have not achieved one. The film went down well in Korea at the DMZ festival. Lack of distribution is partly because we are a very small outfit and the demands on this film since we premiered at Sundance a year ago have been immense. I have been to the US 7 times in 12 months, in Europe more than 10 times as well as Hong Kong and Cambodia. I am still hopeful we can distribute in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore as well as Korea and Japan.

. Are you expecting a lot after the deal with Extra Virgin in Thailand ? do they have the rights for other territories in Asia ?

Extra Virgin are doing a really good release so we are very optimistic about activity there after our release in Bangkok set for early April. They don’t have rights for other Asia territories.

. This doc was not your first doc  in / about Asia ?

I have made many films about Asia for British television including: “Who Really Killed Aung San?” (BBC2, 1997) about the assassination of Aung Suu Kyi’s father, “Malaya: The Undeclared War” (BBC2, 1998) about the brutal war with the communists before independence, “The Real Doctor Evil” (BBC2, 2003) about Kim Jong-Il, “China: Handle with Care” (Channel 4, 2001) about life in China’s ‘rustbelt’ in Shenyang, “Bearers of the Sword” (Channel 4, 2002) about the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines.

. Do you have new doc project in or about Asia ? Are you looking for partners in Asia for this project ?

We are making “Enemies of the People Part 2″ which is like a political conspiracy thriller – using material we were unable to get into the first film and exploring the political issues in a more detailed way. We are looking for Asian partners on this.

We are also developing a creative documentary about the re-unification of Korea for which we are seeking partners.

. How do you see the evolution of documentary production in Asia ? the emergence of independent producers and directors ?

I am seeing a lot of creative documentaries coming out of Asia. And I’m seeing a commitment to telling big stories on the big screen. But I suppose I am not so sure whether there is a secure outlet for these films. The problem is how to make films that can have a potentially wide enough audience to bring income that compensates for the financial risk required to make such films.

. Do you have contacts with this new generation of Asian doc makers ?

I have some contacts, but only a few. More would be appreciated!

. Have you recently watched an Asian doc you specially appreciated ?

I like the films of Amir Muhammad (The Malaysian director’s Wikipedia page) – their mixture of playfulness and seriousness.

. How do you see the cooperation potential between European and Asian doc makers ?

I see it as potentially huge but it has to be a creative and financial partnership of equals.


About “Enemies of the People”

Official website

IMDB web page

Article in Film Biz Asia about the Thai distribution deal

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