Arts & Culture

Danech San on Her Love Affair with Film

Film is love at first sight.

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Together with SeaShorts Festival, B-Side will feature one filmmaker per country in South East Asia to shed some light on the creatives and industry. We have Cambodia’s San Danech.

Danech San | Danech graduated in interior design and has worked in production on a variety of TV shows and films since 2014. With Anti-Archive, she worked on Three Wheels (Kavich Neang, 2015) as production manager, and Diamond Island (Davy Chou, 2016) as casting assistant and assistant production manager. Her debut film, A Million Years, world premiered at the 2018 Busan International Film Festival. It subsequently was named Best Southeast Asian Short Film at the 2018 Singapore International Film Festival and won the Arte Short Film Award at the 2019 Internationales Kurz film Festival Hamburg.

A Million Years will be screened as part of S-Express Cambodia.

Read Aznniel Yunus here.

Having explored multiple roles in the film industry, Danech San emanates passion for the craft in general. Knowing each role needed throughout an entire process of filmmaking, she makes decisions and artistically executes her ideas with clarity, backed by a team who shares the same vision.

She shares with B-Side her love for film and if the belief that all art is political, is true.

Coming from an interior design background, how does that design knowledge set you apart from your peers?

I think interior design is not too far from filmmaking. It’s an art and a science. Watching films has made me experience so many emotions. Most of the time, I don’t understand the story, but the film evokes feelings in me. During the process of making my first film, I realised that I could apply my knowledge and design my ideas into a screenplay.

A script is like a body, a building. To build it, I need a structure to connect those ideas. It can be abstract but also make sense.

You have worked in many capacities in the film industry: production manager, casting assistant, assistant production manager and now, filmmaker. What do you like about this versatility and how has your varied experience help with your filmmaking?

At first, I just wanted to explore what it was like to work in the film industry. It seemed pretty cool and offered more freedom of expression, and I thought that maybe it could lead me to somewhere great. I guess I can say it was love at first sight.

I started as an intern. I remember what I had to do was ensure everyone had their meals ready on set. It felt great to be a part of it. Thereafter, I mainly worked as a production assistant because I was more familiar with administrative matters, and I thought maybe I could become a film producer. I didn’t have the ambition to become a director until more recently, because I discovered how films were made and I was surrounded by filmmaker friends who inspired me to make my first film.

I am grateful to have such opportunities to work in many roles in many different film projects. It definitely helped me foresee the possibilities of making a film. We knew we were on a small budget, but we managed to create a film of a quality we are happy with. I understood very well everyone’s roles and I considered it a collaborative effort, and that made me love the filmmaking process very much.

In your opinion, what does it take to become a good filmmaker?

Well, I’m not sure how I should answer this. I think it takes everything. Being a filmmaker, you cannot work alone. It requires a team, and if you have a personality that is difficult to work with, I cannot imagine that you’d have a great team either. You may be a genius capable of making a great film by yourself, but that would be lonely, in my opinion.

A Million Years has received praise at international film festivals. What is it about the film that speaks to the global audience?

It’s hard to say what it is about the film that resonates with audiences. The film is an expression of my feelings through time and space. People may have related to it in many ways or maybe not. It is up to them. I don’t intend to give any messages or specific meaning.

I feel that audiences have the power to create their own meaning after watching the film, and that is what I love about it.

Do you think art is always political? Why or why not?

I think that people always frame art as political because of its influence. I think art is an expression of ideas and imagination.

I see art as freedom and I have no interest in politics. But oftentimes, politics surround me and I cannot escape it. I have to face the reality that I live in a system and it is political.

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