New Directors Competition | 2016 | 101 minutes
Stranger Says: A rural teenager lands a construction gig on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. By day, Bora (played beautifully by amateur actor Sobon Nuan) does his part building a high-rise hotel for tourists and wealthy Cambodians. By night, he hangs out with the other workers, drinking beer, talking to girls, and dreaming of upward mobility. One evening, Bora’s brother, Solei (Cheanick Nov), rides into town on a motorcycle after taking off for five years. Solei has money through an American “sponsor” who “loves Cambodia,” and he signals a way out. What follows is a quiet study of Cambodia’s rapid development, as experienced by brothers living on two sides of a class divide. French Cambodian director Davy Chou’s feature film debut, which makes up for in color what it lacks in plot, landed the SACD Prize at Cannes this year, and for good reason. (STEVEN HSIEH)
SIFF Says:Bora hasn’t seen his older brother Solei in the six years since he left their home in rural Cambodia. When he shows up at the construction site of Bora’s new job near Phnom Penh smoking a cigarette and sporting cool clothes and an edgy haircut, Bora’s anxious to find out what he’s been up to. Solei introduces him to the local scene of “Diamond Island,” a nickname for the luxury area Bora’s working on developing. Soon he’s immersed in the nightlife―spending evenings at hip clubs, riding with a cute girl on the back of his motorbike, and texting people with his fancy new iPhone. But life’s not as cut-and-dried as the sleek architecture of Diamond Island would suggest, and tragedy shakes reality back into the rural-born teen, forcing him to think about what’s really important. Diamond Island brings to mind the natural 20-something dialogue of Richard Linklater and the neon atmosphere of Wong Kar-Wai. Cinematographer Thomas Favel creates a truly captivating ambience, with sweeping, glittering 360-degree shots and faces sometimes lit only by disco lights and cell-phone screens. This narrative debut by Davy Chou is a tender and bittersweet drama about teenage self-discovery.
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