German director Detlev Buck's romantic drama Same Same But Different premiered in Cambodia last weekend. It was screened at the Cinelux in Phnom Penh, "a splendid Art Deco building from the 1930s".
The Southeast Asian Film Studies Institute has a photo of the movie's banner, draping the cinema.
The fact-based drama is about a young German backpacker -- portrayed by David Kross from The Reader -- who falls in love with an HIV-positive Cambodian bargirl. She's played by Thai actress "Saipan" Apinya Sakuljaroensuk.
It had its world premiere in Locarno, where it won a critics' prize, and was also shown in Toronto.
The Phnom Penh Post as a review from the Cambodian premiere. A snip:
With the current anti-Thai fervour swirling about Cambodia, Buck defended his choice of Thai actress Apinya to play Sreykeo, pointing out that Tom Cruise played a German national hero in the recent film Valkyrie.
“The future here in Asia has to be global, not national,” said Buck.
Same Same But Different is currently in international release, however it will not screen in Cambodia owing to piracy issues and the lack of a suitable venue.
There will always be grumbling about a Thai being chosen to play a Cambodian woman, no matter how wonderful Apinya's performance is, how vigorously Buck defends his choice of leading lady or how warm or frosty Thai-Cambodian relations might be.
As for giving Same Same But Different a general release in Cambodia, it has been nearly 10 years since I've been in Phnom Penh and there have been many changes. I thought that in the intervening years, a multiplex cinema had been built, in addition to the Cinelux, which I never visited. I don't know why those venues aren't "suitable" or what that even means. But as the article says, "piracy issues".