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Cambodia Audiovisual Resource Center Bophana inauguraion

Last month, on December 4, 2006 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the Audiovisual Resource Center Bophana was inaugurated.

A lifelong dream of acclaimed Cambodian film director Rithy Panh, (director of award wining ‘The Khmer Rouge Death Machine’ 2003) president of the Association for the Research, Production and Archiving of Audiovisual documents (ARPAA), the opening of the Bophana archives was, in Mr. Panh’s words, “Symbolic for us – because the Khmer Rouge did not only kill people but they also destroyed identity and memory. To work on audiovisual memories at the Center is to preserve memory and culture.”

However, the Center not only collects images and sounds of the Cambodian memory and makes them available to a wide public, but also trains Cambodians in the audiovisual professions by welcoming foreign film productions and professionals to work “in residence” at the Center.

The Thomson Foundation for Film & TV Heritage based in Paris, France is a key supporter of the Bophana Center.

Established in April 2006, to provide expertise, equipment, technical and logistical support for the preservation of cinema and TV archives, key components of the world’s cultural heritage, the Foundation acts either alone or in partnership with national archive institutions, museums, private collections, companies, or any entity in charge of preserving film and TV archives.

The Foundation through coordination of multi-disciplinary experts within the Thomson Group supports institutions by offering them consulting and/or technical film services, equipment, etc. to help improve the preservation, management and access to both film and TV archives which reflect the history and culture of a country or region.

“The Audiovisual Resource Center Bophana is one of the first international projects for the Foundation,” explained Séverine Wemaere, General Delegate for the Foundation. “The Foundation sees its support of the Center as a demonstrative model for what can be accomplished in similar socio-economic climates. This project is important because it is a perfect illustration of the raison d’etre of the Foundation: to preserve and provide a kind of enduring shelter to the world’s cinematographic and audio-visual heritage, a heritage that is often in danger.”

The Foundation tapped Technicolor (Thailand) Ltd. a member of the Thomson Group based in Bangkok, Thailand to provide actual first cleaning and digitalization of Khmer film artifacts.

The Technicolor team is led by Paul Stambaugh, managing director of the facility and himself a leading film preservationist. The Technicolor (Thailand) team is not only doing the physical work on some of the artifacts but will help in training of Cambodian personal so that eventually work can be done by and at the Bophana archives.

A Need for Wide Ranging Support

The Bophana Center is also supported by the Association for Cambodian Audiovisual Development, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, the French National Audiovisual Institute, The French Ministry of Culture and Communication; The French National Center for the Cinema and UNESCO.

This project demonstrates that efforts in the archiving and cultural memory fields have to be orchestrated and supported by both public and private institutions.

For example a study by the BBC, Radiotelevisione Italiana and the French Institute National de l'Audiovisuel found that European audio visual holdings were simply staggering: for broadcast archives alone, the estimate was in the order of 50 million hours of audio, film and video material. But for ALL audiovisual archives, the estimate doubled, bringing the figure to almost 100 million hours! Only 2% is preserved and an even smaller amount is digitized, accessible and browsable online.

The Thomson Foundation for Film & TV Heritage, in its small way, is helping to move preservation of audio visual attributes into the forefront of international cultural preservation efforts.

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