New online documentary service launches across Southeast Asia

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The iwonder interface, allowing users to choose from a selection of international documentaries. Photo supplied

With easy internet accessibility and fast-growing tech communities in the Kingdom, people who are willing to pay for entertaining and educational content can now try a new documentary video streaming service.

Having hit film lovers in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore earlier this year, iwonder.com launched on Monday in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The uniquely curated content boasts more than 1,000 documentaries in its archives, including five films from Cambodia.

The 75-minute film released in 2017, Rocking Cambodia: the rise of a pop diva sheds light on the struggle to overcome poverty, trauma and obscurity with an Australian wandering musician Julien Poulson and Khmer Karaoke girl Srey Thy.

Though Srey Thy passed away in a tuk-tuk accident in 2018, the rock star has always been remembered, especially by expatriates, in Cambodia.

Another interesting historical film is a documentary with archival footage and photographs filmed by French director Gaston Melies. He went on a 10-month adventure between 1912-1913 around the Asia-Pacific, shooting documentaries and fiction with locals including Polynesians, Maoris, Aborigines and Khmers.

It resulted in the 43-minute film Gaston Melies and His Wandering Star Film Company, which was released in 2015.

“iwonder.com provides great entertainment along with the opportunity to learn something new about our ever-changing world. We work hard to find the best documentaries from all over the world so that our customers don’t have to,” its co-founder and CEO James Bridges said.

To help viewers get in-depth knowledge beyond educational entertainment, the streaming service also combines trending news stories happening locally and around the world with relevant documentary suggestions.

“And by keeping our finger on the pulse of daily global developments to fill our unique homepage newsfeed, the films we serve up are never far from the headlines,” he said.

Bridges highlighted the uniqueness of the content in his documentary video streaming platform.

The films are classified into some 50 genres, such as adventure, culture, crime, nature, science, technology, climate change, sports, politics, business, music and health.

The factual entertainment content helps to keep viewers up-to-date with global and regional current affairs, such as the 1MDB scandal, Hong Kong protests, Brexit, the “Me Too” movement, climate change and more.

But what makes its co-founder thrilled are the service’s major movies – such as Untouchable, about the infamous Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Bridges said: “Dominating global headlines for months, the scandal along with a chronology of events are stranger and more outrageous than fiction.

“This unique ability to entertain and inform in a way that stays relevant to the real-world sets iwonder.com apart from other streaming services, giving viewers in Cambodia access to top-rated content with something to say.”

A Cambodian documentary film producer Koam Chanraksmey, who was just introduced to the platform, expressed excitement over the arrival of more educational video streaming.

“I think the price [iwonder.com’s subscription fee] is very competitive compared to Netflix. I am surprised that it also included content from Cambodia.

“I wonder how many documentaries were produced in Cambodia, and how they selected from those for their platform.

“I think, as long as they have more content from Cambodia, it will help foreigners and especially Cambodians to understand more about their country,” said the 30-year-old documentary producer, who subscribes to a few video streaming platforms for inspiration.

With a one-month free trial and then a low $4.99 per month, or $49.90 for an annual subscription, iwonder.com is available on a mobile and tablet application through the iwonder app on both iOS and Android.

Big screen users can enjoy the content on the iwonder.com website.