After interviewing seven people and shooting for just under 12 hours, we had one last dinner in Battambang before hopping in a taxi back to Siem Reap. Battambang turned out to be a far different city than expected. It is the second largest city in Cambodia (after Phnom Penh) but it seemed constantly deserted and was very hard to find restaurants open whenever we seemed to be eating. The main travel issue….no tuk tuk’s! We’ve been so spoiled with always being able to find them on the streets of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, it was quite a shock to be constantly struggling to find motos to take us anywhere. Eventually we tracked down the one and only tuk tuk in Battambang with a cell phone and called him whenever we needed a ride. Having great footage “in the can” made the 3 hour crazed taxi ride from Battambang to Siem Reap in the pouring rain pass un-eventfully (I somehow managed to sleep the entire way while Jon, Jose, and Sarom bounced all around the taxi with our gear).
Took a much needed day off on tuesday and co-ordinated a visit to a CMAC mining site the following day. Loaded up the cinebag and hopped into a CMAC truck with Mr. Seam Hak (sounds just like C-MAC) to go to the mine fields.
Located about an hour’s drive from Siem Reap, the CMAC site was quite a setup to see and compare to previous de-mining visits. Before being allowed to walk within 100 meters of any land mine site, we were roped into a tent and explained the safety tactics and history of the area. We were told that we could not go anywhere near the sites without stopping all work at the site. Filming CMAC employees demine was the main motivation for us driving out there, so we gently pushed for more. Eventually, they let us visit the various sites and film. We took advantage of the thirty plus workers that we were postponing by including them in the film and directing them on what to do. We even took a group portrait of the entire CMAC crew at the facility along with introductions for each person. While everyone was taking their lunch break, we walked off to look at a nearby temple and filmed an interview with a CMAC de-miner with the temple in the background.
Loaded back into the truck and drove to a much more secluded and harder to reach site where there was a machine to clear mines instead of people. Although much less hazardous, the machine is not able to clear as many land mines as people are. Finished the CMAC day with a long and detailed interview with the Deputy Manager of the local Siem Reap branch who had some great responses.
No time for lunch as after being with CMAC for 7 hours straight, we spent the rest of the afternoon interviewing Aki Ra outside his museum. This interview was mainly about his background de-mining, history of the museum, outlook on the future…Turned out to be a great time/place as the sun began to set behind him, we spoke about the opening of the new museum and his fatherly relationship to all of the kids he’s helped.
Things couldn’t be moving along better in terms of workflow (from shooting to backed up/digitized footage) as I was able to back up a long day of shooting on Thursday morning. Immediately afterwards, we loaded up a tuk tuk and drove the 28km from Siem Reap to the CMAC museum (to open in January of 2008) for a tour of the facility and an interview with its site manager. Couldn’t be happier with CMAC’s resourcefullness, willingness to work with us, and very friendly staff. Perfect example of this: As we’re interviewing the museum’s site manager outside, in direct sunlight, in one of the hottest months of the year, for over an hour, a co-worker of the man we were interviewing called another coworker still at the museum to ride her bike out to where we were with a basket of cold water for all of us. Amazing! Thanks for eveything CMAC!
Another very late lunch…4:30pm then we went straight into filming street shots of Siem Reap. Directing street kids, beggars, and land mine victims on how to be involved in the film is no easy task but we were able to get some great shots and plan exactly what we still need to shoot.
Lots of planning/scheduling tonight between Jon and I while Jose and Sarom are taking the night off to recoup and recharge for our last couple days in Siem Reap before heading to Phnom Penh. Cheers and Slainte to all those attending the good old Supper Club in Chicago…hopefully some lok lak or fish amok or other Cambodian dishes make it to the table….