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A new feature in production details the story of troubled times in Cambodia, and finds French distribution. Director Denis Do talks to about Funan.

Funan belongs to the current wave of feature animated films which, after Persepolis, have investigated the medium of animation toward describing past political situations. Still in the phase of development, and a script ready to be pitched at Annecy festival in June, Funan is directed by Denis Do, and produced by Les Films D' Ici.

Funan has won (June 2013) the Ficam/Tomato Sound Factory prize for the Creative Focus Call for Projects for feature films. It has now been announced that Bac Films will sell internationally and distribute in France the new animation pic.

Denis Do is a graduate of Gobelins École D'Image in France, and his first short film, Le ruban (co-directed with De Thomas Charra, Michaël Crouzat, Kherveen Dabylall and Gabriel Jolly-Monge) also deals with Asian history. He talks to Zippy Frames about his first feature, Funan.

 ZF: Is the film based on an actual story, is it autobiographical or neither? And why did you choose to tackle a topic like that?

denis-doDenis Do: Funan is a fiction based on the life and experiences of my mother during the Khmers Rouges regime. She was separated from my brother from 1975 to 1979. I have chosen to stay close to the characters, to depict this story with an intimate and human point of view.

With the help of Magali Pouzol, my co-author/scriptwriter on the film, we push to an extreme all the links between the characters. This oppressive regime, stands for a context, a situation which will emphasize the relationships and the personalities of the protagonists.

 This story doesn't highlight an ideology more than others, we do not say that one side is better than the other one. For every cultures all over the world, "family" is the base of society. A kind of truth nobody wouldn't go against. The Khmer Rouge regime tried and they failed. Funan is more about family, human's condition than political/historical purposes.

ZF: There is a recent animated film, Couleur de peau: miel (by Jung & Laurent Boileau) which also describes the situation in Asia during the 50s. Have you seen it?

DD: No, I have not yet seen this movie. But I have heard the pitch in 2010 during the Cartoon Movie in Lyon. The story is quite interesting and touching. The situation in Asia during the 20th century is complex. I think "Couleur de peau: miel" takes place in Korea. The situation in this country during the 50's wasn't the same as the whole Asia I guess. I would not try to compare the past situations of Korea and Cambodia. The two countries and cultures are different.

funan1Funan will show the KR regime, but the film is not based on it. I don't pretend to be an historian. The film will depict the story of a woman, a mother with an intimate point of view. We will be close to her feelings, her will and her personality. Not everyone know the life under oppression. But many of us can imagine and experience the idea of being parents.

ZF: Did you and your graphic designer Michaël CROUZAT have to do original research for this film? What is the kind of process that went through, and what are the stages that remain toward the film development?

DD: With Michaël Crouzat (and also Magali), we went to Cambodia in December 2011. In order to get pictures, videos, musics and informations about the life-style, the habits of the cambodian. We 've talked to some people, from cities, countryside, and we 've heard a lot of testimony. Graphically, we will stay close to the reality. Michaël creates backgrounds and characters of the KR period. With an obvious sensitivity to the light setup.

 I went in Cambodia with my mother in 2010. We have found people she knew before. And we traced her past path together. I've talked and shared a lot with my mother and my brother in order to do this project. I had it in mind for a long time. With all the base of the story, I have put the guideline of the film. The development was able to begin.

funan3Michaël and Magali joined the project and we started the development. We have won the animation author's grant from the Lagardère Foundation in 2011. The project is also supported by the France Foundation in 2012 and we have just finish the first version of the screenplay after spending a few weeks in a writing residency, the Moulin d'Andé. The script will be available for the Creative Focus 2013. The next steps will guide us to the pilot of the film. Which will give us answers about all the technical questions we will have to meet.

ZF: What is the animation technique you use in the film?

DD: We will use 2D digital animation and also 3D for the props and some backgrounds. Classical, but efficient.

ZF: Funan has been selected to be pitched at Annecy Creative Focus. Have you been there before, and what are your expectations?

DD: It will be the first time for me. It's exciting. For this event, we are preparing some interesting stuff we will show during the pitch session. I really expect the project to be known and to excite the curiosity of (maybe) future partners. We will pitch in French, I expect the translators will do a good job :)!! 'm more focusing on the creative part of the film. Even I share a lot with my producer, he knows, better than me, what we will need further. It will also be an opportunity to meet him and to ask him directly at the Creative Focus.

ZF: Could you give us a tentative timeline when to expect the film to be finished?

DD: Honestly, I wish the film to be released on the April 2015, the 17th. This date will be the 40th anniversary of the fall of Phnom-Penh under the Khmers Rouges. But I'm also realistic and patient. I want the film to be produce under good conditions. I don't wish it to be done quick, but well.

Read more about Funan in the official film site , and the French blog of the film.

Discover the projects in development to be pitched at Annecy festival's Creative Focus.


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