STOP10: Frights, witchery and fights in 'The Witch' by Huy Yaleng

Huy Yaleng is a Cambodian filmmaker who is known for his talent in acting and directing, often doing both in his films. He seems to have a special affinity with horror as he also acted and directed in the successful horror film Vikaljarek (Psychosis), which dealt with themes of mental illness. 

He has also helmed movies such as "Pteah Khmaoch Tinh" ("Ghost Bought a House"/ "The Haunted House"), "Khmaoch Daem Chek Chvea" ("Ghost on the Banana Tree"), "Mao Svet" ("Stingy Person"), "Aprerng Is Deat" and "Akok Achrova".

His latest film, The Witch, harkens back to a folktale involving witchcraft that threatens to tear a family apart.

Set centuries ago in the Longvek era, Raj is a happily married tycoon with two children and another child on the way. His wife is Tep Leak and they live in harmony, until one fateful day Raj is held up by bandits and wounded. Strange incidents begin when he wakes up, such as the disappearance of cattle and people. The well also dries up. Raj starts to act so oddly that his brother-in-law accuses him of witchcraft.

The trailer hints at a dramatic and entertaining B-horror that won't let up on the fights and frights, with some special effects thrown in. Reviews of The Witch have been positive, with the film receiving a standing ovation during its gala premiere and audience members commenting that Khmer films are improving. The film has also found critical success in Brunei. Its notable and bewitching OST is performed by Leang Sophalien.

Director Huy Yaleng told audiences that the movie took about a month to film, and him and his crew paid meticulous attention to the smallest details in order to properly portray the feel and atmosphere of its historical setting. 

His advice to up-and-coming filmmakers and actors is, “Being committed to performing at your best is one of the factors that go into being a good filmmaker and actor, as well as being able to reflect on who you are and what you are capable of doing. By doing so, you are able to set goals to perform at your best. However, most important of all, you must love what you do."

The Witch was screened at the 8th Cambodian International Film Festival and was earlier released in Phnom Penh and other Cambodian provinces on 25 January this year.

Written by Jacqueline Lee

Check out the other 9 films in our STOP10 list of Cambodian films from CIFF 2018.
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