Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Filmmaker reviving a lost Cambodian martial art

While Tony Jaa has paid tribute to his Khmer Surin heritage by incorporating Cambodian martial arts into his style, in Cambodia there is a filmmaker who is working to revive an ancient martial art, and making low-budget movies that are 100 percent Cambodian.

Norak Soeng, 21, is a martial artist and a filmmaker, skilled in the art of Bokator, the Cambodian martial art that descended from an older form known as khorm yuth. Here's more from a Phnom Penh Post story:

In 2006, Norak Soeng established Tomarak Club Khorm Martial Arts in an effort to promote the ancient fighting style of khorm yuth through film.

"I established the club to produce films that depict ancient Khmer culture and khorm yuth martial arts," Norak Soeng said. "Khorm yuth is the first traditional Khmer fighting style that existed prior to labok kaatou [or Bokator], but most Cambodians interested in martial arts have not heard of the style."

Norak Soeng's debut film, which he says won first prize at the Apsara Television film contest in 2008, was made on a modest budget of US$400.

The 30-minute film titled Norak Soeng Sena Khorm Yuth, or Strong Bodyguard, is inspired by Hong Kong's kung fu genre, but with a dose of Khmer comedy.

"I hope the stunts in the film will inspire youth to become more interested in the rich culture [of khorm yuth]," Norak Soeng said.

Read the whole article for a master's explanation of khorm yuth and Bokator.

There's also further description of the film and the martial-arts moves at the expat blog, A Pint and a Cupcake, which covered a recent screening of Norak Soeng's films:

The movies were pretty funny, and the live voice-over also caused some laughs (classic lines such as "You bastard!" and "I love you too, babe"). The action highlights were probably the flying head kick to knock a guy off a motorbike (no stunt doubles here), and the flying knee lock around the head followed by a roll down some stairs.

Norak Soeng is at work on another film, Keatkor Kbachkun Hanuman Neakreach (The Monkey and Naga Fighter), due for release later this year.

(Photo by Tom Hunter/Phnom Penh Post)

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