Home » Youth-Led Breakthrough Short Film Festival Ignites Social Change in Cambodia

Youth-Led Breakthrough Short Film Festival Ignites Social Change in Cambodia

by Surya Narayan
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The Breakthrough Short Film Festival, a landmark event in Cambodia’s cinematic landscape, successfully took place on March 24, 2024, at Legend Cinema. This festival, organized by the youth-driven Breakthrough Movement, made its debut in commemoration of International Women’s Day, showcasing 33 compelling short films centered on pressing societal issues such as violence against women and girls, social inclusion, discrimination, empowerment, and victim-blaming.

Marking a significant milestone, this event stands out as the first of its kind, curated by Cambodian youth for their peers, aiming to spark conversation and drive social change. The Breakthrough Short Films project was brought to life over several months by a dedicated core team, with valuable input from advisors at the Cambodian-Australian production house GoodMorningBeautiful Films and the efforts of 21 enthusiastic volunteers.

The festival transcended the bounds of traditional cinema, aiming to address and uproot the causes of gender-based violence and foster enduring societal transformation. The underlying belief of the Breakthrough Movement that “change starts with us” was palpable throughout the event.

Khourn Sokheng, a co-founder of the Breakthrough Movement, emphasized the collective responsibility in ending gender-based violence, stating, “It requires everyone to recognize their personal stake and a critical mass to challenge and transform enabling cultural norms.”

Echoing the festival’s significance, Lim Sophorn, a former Chaktomuk Short Film Festival crew member, praised the organizers for creating “a safe and joyful space” and highlighted the youthful audience as a positive sign of Cambodia’s evolving feminist consciousness.

In preparation for the festival, the Breakthrough team conducted extensive outreach, traveling to over four towns and one city and holding 21 events, engaging with over 400 individuals. This effort culminated in 27 festival entries, showcasing a diverse range of media productions, including collaborations with notable partners such as 606 Digital, CIWA, Klahaan, and Transparency International Cambodia.

The festival saw participation from over 250 individuals, including young people, indigenous community members, LGBTQI+ individuals, and people with disabilities. The event culminated in an award ceremony where the top 11 young filmmakers presented their works, sharing their visions and stories with an engaged audience.

Leap Pheakna, Co-director of the winning short film “What If,” expressed gratitude towards the Breakthrough team for providing a platform for community voices to be heard. Similarly, Somonyratana Sorn, the 2nd runner-up, and Ung Sivthong, a top 11 finalist, shared their appreciation for the opportunity to contribute to the conversation on women’s empowerment and self-acceptance through film.

The Breakthrough Short Film Festival not only highlighted the critical role of cinema in addressing social issues but also underscored the power of youth in leading the charge towards a more inclusive and equitable society.

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