"Last Night I Saw You Smiling" nabs an international award

Writer: Vong Phal Solysa

"Last Night I Saw You Smiling" was filmed in the iconic White Building, where filmmaker
Kavich Neang and his family lived until its demolition in 2017.

8 Feb - A documentary feature by Cambodian filmmaker Kavich Neang nabbed an award at one of the biggest international film platforms in Europe, the 2019 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).

"Last Night I Saw You Smiling" had its world premiere during the festival and later won the NETPAC Award for best Asian film.

This marks the first time ever for a Cambodian film to be recognized by the festival.

The documentary was filmed at the iconic White Building where Neang and his family had resided until July 2017, when all the tenants were forcefully evicted to vacate the building for condo development by a Japanese company.

Upon the realization that the artistic landmark will soon cease to exist, the homegrown filmmaker started documenting the last days of the building amid its demolition as well as capturing the memories of the tenants in the place they once called home.

"I started writing my first fiction film in 2016. It is about the White Building. But finding funding took so long that we had to wait. We didn't expect that the building would be demolished, so my team and myself decided to film this documentary," said Neang during an interview with Thai newspaper, The Nation.

"The most important thing in my head for this project was to capture everything that I could because I knew that the building would be empty soon, and then it would be gone for good. I wanted to capture every moment of it. I want to make this film more about my memory, and show the connection between me and the building."

Kavich Neang (right) received the NETPAC Award at the 2019 IFFR for
"Last Night I Saw You Smiling" (Photo source: The Nation).

The White Building, also known as the Municipal Apartments, were constructed a decade after Cambodia's independence from the French colony and amid a movement of New Khmer Architecture.

The iconic building bore witness to decades of historical events including the nation's Golden Age, the dark and traumatic period of the Khmer Rouge regime, the nation's struggle to revive the lost culture, as well as the capitalist development that ironically led to the building's own demise.

With this award-winning documentary feature added to his growing filmography, Neang is fast becoming one of the leading filmmakers in the country.

Some of his previous works, including the 2013 documentary "Where I Go" and the 2015 short "Three Wheels," were both critically acclaimed and screened at various international film festivals.

Meanwhile, he is currently working on his upcoming first feature film project, "White Building," a coming-of-age story that is an homage to the long-gone historical landmark.

Cinema Online, 08 February 2019

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