would tell me in English, but forget to tell E Pho Thoung. Although
the champion can't speak much English, his Thai is quite good; from the
large amount of time he has spent fighting in Bangkok. So, we were able
to communicate in that language. But, as is inevitable. There were times
when one of us zigged, when he should have zagged. Luckily, there were
no injuries, and we both just laughed it off.
rehearsal, we began shooting. And once again, the moves had to be repeated
and repeated. One of my moves was that I had to kick over E Pho Thoung's
head. I lost count at about fifty kicks. The total time we spent filming
this fight scene was about four hours. Afterwards, I was completely done
in. Luckily for the rest of the day, I just played a corps, lying on the
ground, while E Pho Thoung fought with Ros Attra.
to being impressed at what a friendly guy E Pho Thoung was, I couldn't
believe how much energy he had. During the course of a single, very
long day of shooting, he filmed three separate fight scenes, with three
different opponents. Two of the scenes involved jumping off of a platform,
hitting the ground, and rolling. He never once complained when Seila asked
him to do it again. He just brushed himself off, hopped on the platform,
and did it again.
Bruce Lee often
talked about how hard it was for him to go from real fighting to movie
fighting. Bruce's style emphasized low kicks and minimal movement. His
signature strike was a one-inch punch. He realized that while his style
was perfect for real fighting, it was boring on film. So, he developed
his world famous, movie fighting techniques, with high, spinning kicks,
big punches and flashier movement. Apparently, E Pho Thoung had some difficulty
making the transition to movie fighting, as well."He is a boxer.”
Said Seila. "If you fight him in a ring, he could kill you. But this
is a movie. We had to teach him Khmer kung fu, because it looks better
The Khmer art
which is world famous, is the professional kickboxing, of which E Pho Thoung
is a champion. In fact, the Khmers maintain that Thailand's Muay Thai was
actually invented in Cambodia. Many Khmers have told me. "The Thai's
stole our art."
art, which Seila most wishes to preserve and to showcase, is Khmer kung
fu. This is an ancient, very complete martial art, which involves,
kicks, punches, knees, elbows, forms, and routines. It looks very similar
to Chinese Kung Fu, although experts say that Khmer kung fu developed independent
of the Shaolin Temple.
on to say that E Pho Thoung was a phenomenal student, and that he was making
the transition surprisingly well. I agreed with him. But I also felt
that Seila and Ross Attra were great teachers. They kept all of the film's
fighters in line, and kept the action interesting. While we were preparing,
Seila or Attra would spot a mistake all the way across the field, although
they were busy with a million other details. They would run over and correct
in Cambodia are considerably less than what they would be in the US, with
films costing as little as $20,000. This meant that actors had to do
their own stunts, and that Seila, was director, producer, writer, and fight
choreographer. In addition to playing a leading role, Attra helped with
choreography and collaborated with Seila on writing and editing.
me, "In the west, actors are paid to study Kung fu." Keanue Reeves
has studied movie kung fu for years. Charly's Angels learned their art
from the same instructor. And, Matt Daemeon spent months studying the Philippine
art of Kali, to prepare him for his role in "The Bourn Identity."
Cambodia, the film companies feel that actors should only be paid for acting."
Said Seila. "So there is no way for us to teach them Kung fu. They all
have to keep a full time job to support themselves." For this reason,
Seila converts his kung fu students into actors, instead of the other way
always said that Hollywood could learn a lot from Asian studios. He
felt that making movies with no money was the real art. In the films, which
Jackie produces, he combines his Asian experience with Western money, and
produces a wonderful finished product, for a fraction of what Hollywood
films normally cost. The special effects in a Cambodian film are simple.
Rather than purchasing expensive "break-away" clubs, they saw through
a real club, add some baby powder, and then re-attach the two ends. When
the club is broken over someone's back, there is an impressive puff of
powder. Later, sound technicians, Seila and Attra, will add a special effects
noise, and the scene will look and sound dramatic. When a character is
run through with a spear, the end of the spear is sawed off, and affixed
to a harness, which the actor straps to his back. Now it appears that the
spear has gone through his body.
blank rounds and movie guns were also considered unnecessary playthings
of the rich. The guns used in the movie were real. Blanks were made
by removing the lead from the end of the bullet, then driving the bullet
into a tree, carefully, with a hammer. When the bullet was removed from
the tree, it was full of wood. When fired, there was a loud explosive noise,
lots of smoke, and just a little bit of burnt, wooden shrapnel.
journalist and actor, it was often difficult for me to know where to stand.
Wanting to get a good shot of the blood that sprayed out of a squib device,
when one of the actors was shot, I was splattered with movie blood.
normally taste a strange chemical, but the aroma was too inviting. The
blood turned out to be berry juice! Seeing what the Khmers could achieve
with absolutely nothing made me feel like a spoiled rich kid.
the best fighters in the world." Said Seila. "But we don't have
the money. The best would be if we could collaborate with film companies
from Hong Kong or America. Actors and laborers cost almost nothing here.
The land is cheap. There are beautiful jungles to film in. We just don't
have the technology or the distribution."
a Child" is Seila's fifth film. He plans to do two sequels, and dreams
of having a partnership with a foreign film company. "All they would
have to do is send me one camera man, one technician, and money, and I
could provide everything else."
help support Khmer culture, I made an offer to Seila. "If Hollywood
is willing to pay for your next movie, I'd be willing to act in it."
"Let's get the money first. Then we can worry about your career."
are the previous articles that Antonio wrote for the magazine:
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