CAMBODIAN-FRENCH YOUNG GENERATION FILMMAKER, DAVY CHOU TAKES HIS AUDIENCE INTO THE LANDSCAPE OF MODERN-DAY CAMBODIA THAT IS FAR FROM THE WRECKAGE OF THE POST-KHMER ROUGE ERA.
Diamond Island is Davy Chou’s second film. The Cambodian-French young generation filmmaker takes his audience into the landscape of modern-day Cambodia that is far from the wreckage of the post- Khmer Rouge era commonly depicted in films about the country that have made their way to international festivals and distribution. In Diamond Island, viewers explore the urbanized landscape of Cambodia with the blossoming construction of new built structures while following the life of Bora, a rural boy who becomes a member of the workforce that helps to propel the country toward modernization.
The film stands out for its aesthetic style. Unlike other movies about the struggle of a tragic hero in the big city, Diamond Island shies away from serious documentary-style storytelling that may have put emphasis on the projection of what Cambodia really is today. What Chou adds is a ‘fabricated surrealism’ achieved through the art direction that contributes to the film’s dramatic use of colors, like a piece of vibrant polyester fabric rather than a pale calico. The visual language is carefully designed and strictly executed to replace the use of a handheld camera. The soundtrack accentuates the surreal mood and tone instead of using only sounds from the actual places. It seems like the director is attempting to experiment with a new cinematic language as the film explores new possible dimensions for its subject matter (members of the young, low-income workforce in the big city), questioning their presence that seems to be limited to only the neorealist genre and whether or not they can be the protagonists in other types of movies. The attempt, however, is a weak point of the film for there are moments and several occasions when we feel like the work is trying too hard to fashion a new aesthetic style and, as a result, leaves the characters lost in the excessive visual language, which ultimately causes the flamboyant setting and props to be more humanized than the actual characters themselves.
TEXT: RATCHAPOOM BOONBUNCHACHOKE