Sinn Sisamouth, referred to as the “Elvis of Cambodia”, is one of the country’s most beloved and influential singers. 

Often compared to Elvis Presley due to his immense popularity and cultural impact, Sisamouth's music played a crucial role in the country's vibrant musical scene during the 1950s and 1960s. 

His career was tragically cut short during the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, but his legacy continues to inspire and connect Cambodians worldwide.

The film, produced by Chris G Parkhurst and premiered on July 25, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia, is one of 48 Cambodian films to be screened during Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) from June 25-30.

“The 13th edition of the CIFF presents an extensive selection of films from around the world. This year's festival will feature 153 films from 41 countries,” organisers​ said after a press conference held at the Rosewood Hotel on the morning of June 19.  

“Attendees can look forward to more than 120 screenings and events, all free of charge, at various venues across Phnom Penh,” they added. 

This year, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Serey takes on the role of the festival’s "Honorary Patron". The position, similar to that of a "goodwill ambassador", highlights her dedication to the cultural and creative industries. 

Serey aims to promote a strong film sector for sustainable development and will support the festival as a platform for Cambodian cinema and talents.  

This year’s festival will highlight Cambodian cinema with several notable premieres. It will open with a documentary titled "Elvis of Cambodia: The Legacy of Sinn Sisamouth", produced to celebrate his life and legacy. 

Besides filmmakers, the subject’s family will also attend the screening. 

Sinn Setsochhata (centre), granddaughter of the late Sinn Sisamouth, addresses a June 19 press conference on the festival. Bophana Centre

Sisamouth's music is known for its poetic lyrics and diverse influences, including traditional Khmer music and Western rock and pop. 

Despite the challenges of preserving his work due to the destruction of many records during the Khmer Rouge era, his songs remain a poignant reminder of Cambodia's rich cultural heritage.

The film explores Sisamouth's significant contributions to Cambodian music and culture, featuring interviews with his family, contemporary musicians and fans. 

It aims to highlight the enduring influence of his music on the Cambodian diaspora and the country's history.

Other important Cambodian films include LD Picture's "Sugarcane Baby" and Amit Dubey's "Silent Murders," starring Ros Mony. 

Additionally, the festival will host the world premiere of "Out Of Darkness," a film by Steven Stuart and MK Kilburn, shot entirely in Cambodia.

Official partners of the event include the UN in Cambodia, in collaboration with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Food Programme (WFP), and the embassies of India and Australia in Cambodia.

“We are pleased to sponsor this year’s [CIFF] in celebration of 30 years of the Australia Awards in Cambodia,” said Australian charge d'affaires Pablo Kang.

“This sponsorship underscores our dedication to nurturing cultural exchange and supporting the arts, reflecting our core values in fostering connections between Australia and Cambodia and recognising excellence,” he added.

The festival will showcase a diverse array of international films, including "The Harvest" by Cambodian-American director Caylee So, the Thai film "How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies" and "Satu – Year of the Rabbit," the festival's closing film. 

Special programmes such as "Lifelong Learning”, in partnership with the Australian Embassy in Cambodia, and "Road to Olympia" will focus on inspiring youth and celebrating sports achievements, featuring films like "Radiance" by Rachel Perkins and "Freeman".

The festival will showcase documentaries like "Bax Axe" by Cambodian-American David Siev and "M-13: The Birthplace of the Khmer Rouge's Brutality" by Narith Roeun. 

The "Beautiful Planet" programme will emphasise environmental education and climate change adaptation, with over 30 films on wildlife, biodiversity and indigenous issues. 

CIFF will also cater to families and children with the "Cartoons of the World" programme, featuring animated shorts and family-friendly films, including Cambodian tales by Colin Tie and the Indian film "Return to the Jungle".

The opening gala's red carpet for the festival will be held at Chaktomuk Theater on June 25 and will conclude with the closing film on June 30 at Legend Olympia. Attendance at both these events is by invitation only.