STOP10: Reviving Ly Bun Yim's '12 Sisters'

50 years ago, Ly Bun Yim made a landmark film in Cambodian film history, with his lavish film 12 Sisters. One of the first local films to be shot on 35mm as well as incorporating innovative and bold special effects never seen before in Cambodia - earthquakes, blood and a flying Pegasus were the big highlights of 12 Sisters.

However, when Cambodia fell under the hands of the Pol Pot regime, most of Ly Bun Yim's works had been lost. Bun Yim had prior to that, produced more than 20 films during the famous Golden Age of Cambodia film history and only 3 of these films remain in any useful conditions. 12 Sisters, Sobasith and Orn Euy Srey Orn.

12 Sisters propelled Bun Yim into fame and is considered one of his masterpieces that dazzled audiences. It tells the story of twelve beautiful sisters, abandoned by their parents and adopted by an ogress and a story involved eyeballs and orgies.


Fortunately for film lovers, a high quality 35mm print of the film was found at the house of Bun Yim's son in California, though it was a dubbed version for Thai. It was quickly sent to Berlin for a screening as well as to be preserved at minus 18 Celsius, waiting 4 more years before it was digitized into high-definition by Nobukazu Suzuki, a Japanese archivist, working to preserve the old films of Cambodia.

It took a further year, where at Kyoto University, in association with the Japan Foundaion and assistance of Cambodian arhcivist Lim Sophorn, Bun Yim was abl to re-synchronise the Khmer audio into the film and later screened in Japan.

Finally however, in what is a historic moment, after half a century later, 12 Sisters returned to the big screen in Cambodia, in high definition, with the original Khmer audio and in the presence of the director himself as part of a larger tribute  the Cambodia International Film Festival has dedicated to Ly Bun Yim.

Will we get to watch 12 Sisters again? We reckon the chances of another domestic screening at a later point in time are high. We pray for a VOD version online.

Written by Rifyal Giffari

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