Danech San

B. 1991, Battambang, Cambodia.

Danech is a filmmaker based in Phnom Penh.  On August 26, 2019, we interviewed Danech at Tini cafe in Phnom Penh. She discussed moving to the city from Battambang, getting to know the Phnom Penh film and art scenes, working with the Anti-Archive film organization, and developing her first short film, "A Million Years." Listen to her interview below.

02 Location in Kampot, Cambodia.m4a

1. Shooting in Kampot.

Danech describes shooting A Million Years on location in Kampot, Cambodia. She is from Battambang, Cambodia, and she discusses how it inspired the film. The area of Kampot is rich in natural resources, and she was fascinated by the place. 
03 Philippa asks about the process of location scouting.m4a

2. Location scouting.

Danech discusses how she was inspired by doing a trip with her friend. Having beers on the riverfront, she and her old friend discussed topics that they had never talked about.   She realizes that knows him, but at the same time, doesn’t know him. She noticed for the first time that he had an interesting profile and decided to cast him.
04 Philippa asks about the character of Uhm.m4a

3. Basing a character on her grandmother.

Danech describes being 13-14 years old and seeing a photo of her grandmother. She based the character on her. She had just heard stories, but she had already passed away. She didn’t know much about her. But with the one photo, she began to feel very connected. The photo raised questions about her own identity. It reflects her own identity. She doesn’t know much about her history, but felt it was very complex. She felt very connected.
A still from A Million Years.
05 Philippa asks about how she’s read about Danech incorporatin.m4a

4. Developing characters.

Danech talks about how if you look at yourself, there are parts that you don’t like. But what helped her was to think about others. The character that she imagined, the grandma character, was based on how she looked in the photo, which was very calm, but tough.
06 Danech also met the actress and they connected.m4a

5. Casting.

Danech describes casting a well-known model in the lead role, and getting to know someone whose face she had seen on the streets of Phnom Penh.  
07 Philippa asks what parts of herself she did put into the cha.m4a

6. Creating characters.

For Danech, creating the lead character was about how they look at things: nature, or the person close to her. 
08 Philippa asks about the connection between personal, family.m4a

7. Histories.

Danech describes how, in the film, the photographer with the camera speaks to larger histories. There is one frame, and you only see part of the story. 
A still from A Million Years.
09 Philippa describes the conversation about the mountains as r.m4a

8. Time travel.

When Danech went to Pusan, the landscape of the sea and mountains was very similar to Cambodia.  But Cambodia didn’t have as many tall buildings yet. So she thought South Korea was the future of Cambodia, and that she was a time traveler, visiting  the future. 
10 Philippa asks about the idea of the title, “A Million Years.m4a

9. Thinking in millions of years.

The film's Thai editor Machima Ungsriwong (Aacharee), came up with the film's title. Danech had seen Aacharee's work on Anocha Suwichakornpong’s film, By the Time It Gets Dark.
11 Jasmine asks about the crocodile that Danech says she and Aa.m4a
11 Jasmine asks about the crocodile that Danech says she and Aa.m4a

10. Crocodiles.

Danech had many dreams about crocodiles: she would be walking alone and see a crocodile on a lake or a pond, or she’s walking in  a rice field and someone tells her to go look at a crocodile. The stories of crocodiles would provide inspiration for her film.
A still from A Million Years.
12 Philippa asks about northwest Cambodia, where Danech is from.m4a

11. Growing up in Battambang.

Battambang is near the Thai border. It’s a small town, but has a long history being independent. It used to be in Thailand, so there are cultural similarities in food and language. It is a very quiet place, and people depend on farming. 
 When Danech grew up there, in high school there were two cinemas. They would not play Cambodian films, but Chinese horror or comedy. Sometimes there would be mobile cinema screenings in school, which would be old Cambodian films from the sixties. But this would only be 2 or 3 times per year. 
Phnom Penh, August 2019.
14 At first, her family didn’t like the idea of moving to Phnom.m4a

12. Moving to Phnom Penh.

At first, her family didn’t like the idea of Danech moving to Phnom Penh alone, in 2009. She studied interior design in college. The first thing she discovered about the city was the people. In a city, there was great diversity, which amazed her. 
She would visit museums, libraries, and film screenings. Every weekend, she would spend three hours a day at the internet cafe. She would download music videos or films, usually Hollywood, Thai, Chinese, or Taiwanese mainstream films. 
She then began to volunteer for a documentary organization that worked with youth. 
15 She would always attend workshops and film screenings.m4a

13. Becoming more involved in Phnom Penh's film scene.

Danech describes the community of cinemagoers she met when attending film festivals and screenings at Bophana, the film center started by filmmaker Rithy Panh. 
A still from A Million Years. 
16 Philippa asks about collaboration.m4a

14. Working as a casting assistant.

Danech's work with Anti-Archive began when she was hired as a casting assistant. With casting, they would talk to young people with different backgrounds, around the city. They would share intimate things that they didn’t ask for. For her, it was very pure and beautiful, and helped her learn how to connect with people.
17 When production for Diamond Island started, she became a Pro.m4a

15. Working on Diamond Island.

When production for Diamond Island (Davy Chou, 2016) started, Danech became a Production Assistant, working with a French production manager. She learned a great deal from working with a French crew. She wasn’t coming from a film school, so she didn’t have a system for how to do things.  One of the challenges was that they wanted to make a small budget film of the best quality. Anti-Archive was also founded at that time, so there was a lot of admin work. She also began working on Kavich Neang's short film, Three Wheels.
18 The local audiences for Diamond Island felt it seemed French.m4a

16. Diamond Island's  reception.

Locally, Diamond Island's reception was mixed, but many viewers appreciated the film's realism.
19 Danech discusses what Anti-Archive was like. The energy and.m4a

17. Collaboration.

Danech describes Anti-Archive's non-hierarchical structure. 
20 They are friends, which started with Cine Club. Sangho and D.m4a

18. An unofficial cinema club.

Anti-Archive's cinema club, which started in Davy's home, became an informal education in film. 
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (Thailand, 2004) was one of the films Danech saw at the cine club.  
21 Apichatpong is very personal. He’s trying to go deeper into.m4a

19. Apichatpong & David Lynch.

Danech describes two of the filmmakers that have inspired her. 
Twin Peaks became an inspiration for A Million Years.
22 For her, it’s important that being with the people in Anti-A.m4a

20. Sharing roles.

Danech describes how members of Anti-Archive share roles.
23 Space of Anti-Archive. They just got their first office the.m4a

21. The space of Anti-Archive.

The organization had just moved to a new office in July 2019, after working mainly in cafes like Tini.
Anti-Archive's new office, August 2019.
24 Philippa asks if there are connections between Anti-Archive.m4a

22. Filmmakers and other artists.

Filmmakers have gotten to know other artists in the city through exhibitions and film festivals. The new Anti-Archive office is right next to Sa Sa Art Projects, which has been an important space for the Phnom Penh art scene. 
A promotional video for the Echoes from Tomorrow project.
25 Danech discusses the Echoes from Tomorrow project. Anti-Arch.m4a
26 Philippa asks about whether it’s important to Danech that th.m4a

23. Echoes from Tomorrow.

Danech discusses the crowdfunding project, which involved three first-time filmmakers from Anti-Archive.
27 Danech reflects on the future of Anti-Archive. She wants to.m4a

24. Anti-Archive's future.

Danech reflects on her hopes for Anti-Archive's future.