Cambodia International Film Festival

Oscar Contender to Screen Other Short Films at CIFF

Ly Polen
Ly Polen

Ly Polen, a local Cambodian filmmaker, just won an award at the 2022 Palm Springs Short Fest! Presented with the Award for Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes for his short film, “Further and Further Away”, which tells the story of a young indigenous couple who move to the city after their rural home becomes part of a development project. It is now possible for Polen to be considered for an Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 

“This award is not about the prestige, but for me, it is more a recognition of the efforts, the courage, and the hope for filmmakers to sustain the power of filmmaking,” Polen stated. “The power of giving the voice of the unheard ones. I hope we filmmakers will continue to tell our stories despite many challenges and pressure that may come.”

Polen became inspired by indigenous communities in northern Cambodia after he visited the area in northern Cambodia many times in 2017. Singapore International Film Festival awarded the script a Southeast Asian Short Film Grant worth about $5,000 in May. 

“Further and Further Away” is still on the festival circuit, but fans can catch Polen’s short film currently showing at the Cambodian Shorts competition at the Cambodia International Film Festival.

“Side By Side” Playing at CIFF

Side by Side by Polen Ly
Side by Side by Polen Ly

In Polen’s short film “Side By Side”, an indigenous elder couple recalls their strange marriage as they go about their daily routines in a rural village. As they tell their story to their granddaughter, and sometimes to each other, they echo the changing rhythm of nature around them.

“I got this project from Meta House,” Ly explained. Polen felt there were more stories to explore after creating a short documentary for Meta House. He spent his own money to go back and forth. After one year, he had enough footage to make a film. 

Following an old indigenous couple who were forced to marry under the Khmer Rouge, Polen discovered they had actually fallen in love after their marriage. “The grandmother told me that after two weeks (of marriage), she learned to love her husband because of his good behavior. After hearing about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge and many forced marriages ending in divorce or trauma, Polen found hope in this couple’s story. 

In spite of the deaths of their families, the couple continues to live together in Rattanakiri with Tumpoun tribe members. They have many children, but only one daughter still living with them today.


Polen’s second short film screening at CIFF is “Candlelight”. A film about the power of sharing, as a community. 

“It was made from a very sweet and kind collaboration between friends during the pandemic,” Polen said. “We shot only in one interior location. The film is in a form of surrealism and was made purposely for a film festival that required a vertical frame, that’s why the film is in that format.” Polen was excited to take on the challenge of finding the beauty in the modern way of vertical framing in smartphones to tell a small story.

From Doctor to Filmmaker

Polen Ly quit his medical studies in 2012 to pursue his filmmaking career, earning a reputation for his unusual stories and poetic themes, often exploring human rights issues. In 2014, Ly was placed second in the Tropfest South East Asia festival with “Duetto”. In 2015, his film “Colourful Knots” won first place at Tropfest SEA in Malaysia. In 2017, “Red Ink” took home the first prize at the Cambodian National Short Film Festival.

He recently premiered his short film promoting the Cambodia International Short Film Festival during the opening ceremony on June 28th. The audience laughed and adored the story about a house spirit that was annoyed at the family’s obsessions with smartphones. 

Watch Polen’s short film “Candlelight” in “Cambodia in Shorts” section in the programming. 

“Side By Side” on Friday 1st at 7:30 PM Bophana Center

Written by Sotheavy Nou