Mao Ayuttha, filmmaker who died in Khmer Rouge, 76

Mao Ayuth is one of the few Cambodian filmmakers to survive the Khmer Rouge era, during which most of the actors and intellectuals were killed, and who then rose to become the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Information, on 15 April in Phnom Penh, Cambodian has expired. Capital. He was 76.

Fos Sowan, a ministry spokesperson, said the reason for this was the complications of Kovid-19.

Mr. Mao Ayut, who was also a novelist, poet and screenwriter, began his film career in the 1960s and ’70s, known as the Golden Age of Cambodian Cinema. Filmmaking took place under the country’s leader at the time, Prince Novodom Sihanouk, an avid, who directed his own films.

Mr. Mao Ayutha’s first film was one of the last films to reach the screen before the radical communist Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975, attempting to erase all aspects of culture, including education, art and religion.

The film, “Beth Funneck Henk Trong” (“Close My Eyes, Open My Heart”) was shot with a 16 mm camera, which had to be wound in the arm. Highly popular at the time, it tells the story of a Cambodian businessman living in France who returns home when his twin brother dies; He then falls in love with his brother’s widow, who eventually grows up with him.

Only one copy of the film was made, which required the messenger to ferry from theater to theater. Its run lasted only a few weeks. The Khmer Rouge army was closing in on Phnom Penh – by some accounts the sound of cannons could be heard from within theaters – and when the city collapsed on April 17, 1975, that single copy was lost.

In about four years, more than 1.7 million people were massacred, with Mr. Mao Ayuth surviving by hiding his background as an artist, rather than a wedding photographer.

He told his story in 2011 in an interview with Tilman Bomgirl, a journalist and professor of media theory in applied sciences at the University of Mainz, Germany, who also taught for a time at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

After a Vietnamese invasion in 1979 removed the Khmer Rouge from power, Mr. Mao Ayath returned to his craft, but Phnom Penh was a ghost town by then. There were no cinemas and no funding for filmmaking equipment.

It would be another decade before his second film was released in 1988. The film, “Chet Chong Cham“(” I Want to Remember “), a story of surviving during the last decades of civil war and devastation, is told in flashback in a flashback. It, too, proved popular among people hungry to see scenes from their recent past. happen.

The Cambodian film industry then realized that the fastest rise and fall of anything in the world could happen. At its peak, the industry produced 167 films in 1990; In 1994, this number came down to just 31.

One reason was the competition from flashier foreign films; Another was the arrival of television in Cambodia. But the main reason was the film piracy. As soon as a film was screened, it was pirated and taken home on disc. The absence of strong copyright laws continues to weaken Cambodian cinema.

In 2005, Mr. Mao Ayutt’s most popular film, “Ne Sat Karor” (“Crocodile”), was based on childhood memories of crocodile hunters, telling the story of the hunt for the legendary crocodile king.

He was born on July 8, 1944, in the central Terai areas, in Kempong Cham Province. His father, Maine Thuong, was a commune officer. His mother was Tai Sing.

After participating in a screenwriting program in the early 1960s, Mr. Mao Ayuth worked on Cambodia’s first television station, which began as a production assistant and moved on to a news director.

A decade later he went to France with a stipend from the national television and radio agency. While on a vacation in the Swiss Alps, he used his handheld crank camera to produce footage that became part of the “Beth Fanek Heck Trong”. Winter views of mountains, ski lifts and tourists in fur hats were thrilling for Cambodians who had never seen snow.

He is survived by his widow, So Samoni; Four daughters, Mao Bofani, Mao Moni Na, Mao Moni Neath and Mao Moni Roth; And a son, Mao Makara.

In 1993, Mr. Mao Ayut was appointed Secretary of State in the Ministry of Information. He was also the President of the Association of Television Stations of Cambodia.

He was recently selected by Prime Minister Hun Sen to make a film series about Mr. Hun Sen’s life as a poor village boy, becoming one of the world’s longest-serving leaders Gaya, which has been in power for more than three decades now.

Mr Mao Ayuth was still working on the series upon his death, treating it as a distinct privilege.

“When it’s for his honor, we should work hard,” he told reporters in January. “It is a great honor that the top leader has trusted us, so we should fulfill our obligations to fulfill their trust.”

Surya Narin contributed reporting from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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