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Portrait Series Battambang
- Installment 1 (2012)



© Ebru Karaca&copy Ebru Karaca&copy Ebru Karaca&copy Ebru Karaca&copy Ebru Karaca
© Ebru Karaca


Directed by Michael Laub

with Kiry Chhim, Chanreaksmey Srey, Leout Porn, Khema Chhuon, Veng Mav, Chan Minear Choun, Pon Channiat, Chan Neary Choun, Nara Pan, Vanny Yout, Soknan Nat, Sopheara Chea, Mohamed Saliou Bangoura, Samnang Phat, Yeethien Mao, Sok Kheang Rem, Sophea Houn, Johnny West, Sophea Mao, Bun Reasmey Chea, Reaksmey Yean, Pun Sochea, Chan Sovanna Srey, Sokuntevy Oeur, Samnang Nut, Maly, Srey Mean Bun, Khoun Soun, Leakena Bun, Nicolas C. Grey, Vuthy Touch, Yuri Holi, Chandy Chhuon, Teang Sam, Chanpheaktra I, Srey Leap Nov

Co-Produced by Michael Laub, Phare Performing Social Enterprise Co. Ltd
Director of Photography and Editor Ebru Karaca
Production Management Xavier Gobin
Artistic Consultant and Production Assistant Mathieu Ly
Production Assistant Reaksmey Yean
Light Jochen Massar, Yeethien Mao
Sound Mix Jean-Pierre Urbano , Border Arts Studio, Professional Audio Productions
Translators Rithisal Kang, Kunthy Sok, Dilen Hin
Social Worker Dalin Nou
Subtitles Sarin Chhuon
Stage Hands Yeethien Mao, Sok Kheang Rem
Technical Crew Sophea Mao, Yeethien Mao,Sok Kheang Rem
Location Assistants  Sovankiri Thuon, Vichheka Van,  Sopheak Sam, Kosal Sam

Thanks to Jean-Christophe Sidoit, Mathieu Damperon, The Cambodian Space Project

Presented at Phare Ponleu Selpak, Battambang, Cambodia, December 14/15 2012

© Michael Laub 2012


Portrait Play - Michelle Vachon, The Cambodian Daily Dec 15-16 2012 Pg 10 - 11

The video theater production "Portrait Series Battambang," presented in Battambang City this Saturday and which will be shown in Europe next year appears deceptively simple at first glance. But it is a simplicity that takes years of experience to achieve and was created by a director who is clear about his complex vision of theater.

Conceived as a play by Belgian director Michael Laub but then filmed for practical purposes, the production is a series of short profiles of people from Battambang. Some of them are ordinary Cambodians who accepted the invitation sent out by the organization Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) to speak about themselves in front of a camera at a theater workshop. Others are students at PPS, which runs performing arts and fine arts schools.

The stories that made the final cut for the video came from individuals who fascinated Mr. Laub because of their intensity, he said. Mr. Laub, a director and choreographer who has staged about 35 major shows in Europe and taught at several universities, focused on the drama of ordinary life.

Although real stories are told in the video, it was still directed and rehearsed to some extent.

Once they had "auditioned" in the workshop and been selected, people were invited back to tell their stories with Mr. Laub directing them to sit or stand, move or remain still as he worked to recapture the emotion of their personal stories.

After each short story was filmed, Mr. Laub wove them together.

"When you put them all together, they create a certain context and they reflect the world and the reality they're in "he said.

One of the participants, Mav Veng, a street food vendor who became a central part of the video, broke down on camera as he told of hiding alone in a trench at 8-years old while the area was being bombarded in the early 1970s.He continued on to tell how in the late 1970s he was saved from a Khmer Rouge soldier who was about to kill him with an axe because a herd of cows arrived. And he then told of raising his brother's children after his brother had died of AIDS.

"I took care of him till he died," Mr. Veng says in the video, wiping tears away. "Before he died...he only asked for a bowl of noodle soup... He had a bowl of noodle soup and then he rested; he rested forever."

Although there was a power shortage while Mr. Veng first spoke on stage, "he was so traumatized that he didn't even care that the camera was off and there was no light. He went on talking," Mr Laub recalled.

Mr Veng's account was divided into three segments around which the 90-minute "Portrait Series Battambang" was built, the director said

Mr. Laub stressed that the piece does not pretend to objectively represent the country. "There is no attempt at all to portray Cambodia or Battambang," he said.

Nevertheless, "Portrait Series Battambang" definitely does, highlighting the courage of ordinary people who hold their goals and dreams close as they struggle to make ends meet.

In the video, some of the performers speak directly to the camera, and others perform while text they prepared appears on the screen in English.

As people tell their stories, social patterns emerge.

One 40-year-old woman, Choun Chan Minear breaks down in tears as she recounts how her husband beat her and married a second wife, then abandoned her with four children she could not even feed, let alone send to school. Her portrait is followed by a staged scene in which she and four women with similar experiences tell their stories as a chorus, as three of them openly wipe away tears.

A female painter tells of how many Cambodians still view painting as a man's profession, while Chhim Kiry, a Khmer classical dancer who teaches at PPS, speaks of how at first, it was difficult for him to perform because classical dance used to be reserved for women.

Some portraits are lighter in tone. One woman in a loose top and calf-length shorts demonstrates the difference between men and women's stances in hip-hop. At times, a portrait will start out playful but turn serious. In one portrait, a pretty young girl sits as her story appears written on screen. Chea Bun Reasmey, 21, supports herself as a scavenger, collecting discarded goods on the streets. As her story unfolds, the powerful woman that she is emerges: she refuses to be subservient in a relationship and embraces the fact that her family is poor.

"I think being poor enriches my life," she says. "Rich kids know very little about life. I'm poor and I struggle a lot and I learned so much from this hard life and that's meaningful. I know difficulties and hunger."

Mr. Laub has previously produced "Portrait Series Berlin" in 2007 and "Portrait Series Istanbul" in 2010.

"Ihave been called post-avantgarde, post-modern, anti-illusionistic - at first I thought they meant I didn't have any illusion left, which is not true," M.Laub said.

Mr. Laub plans to turn the Berlin premiere of "Portrait Series Battambang," which is scheduled for late 2013 into a mini Cambodian festival complete with a Cambodian rock band and the work of at least one Cambodian photographer.