Golden Slumbers is a feature documentary on the legacy and contemporary traces of the “golden age” of Cambodian cinema which emerged from the 1960s and into the 1970s. During this period, several hundred feature films were produced and exhibited in cinemas across the country, and even in some cases internationally. But the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror from 1975 to 1979—which resulted in the deaths of over 3 million Cambodians—also put a halt to this flourishing national cinema. Director Davy Chou reckons with this loss of life and culture through finding remnants of this cinematic past among rogue photos, still-existing soundtrack music, traces of film studios in the land and most of all in the memories of the few who survived, among them actors, directors and cinema-lovers.
Directed by Anti-Archive co-founder Davy Chen several years before the founding of the production company, Golden Slumbers gives a clue to the lines of inquiry, artistic sensibility and working methods that Anti-Archive would pursue in the years following. Future collaborators are among the crew, including Anti-Archive co-founder Steve Chen (camera operator) and composer Jérôme Harré, whose compositions are also found in Danech San’s Sunrise in My Mind (2020) and Sea Within a Sea (2021).
Beyond that, the film even more acutely invokes the spirit of Anti-Archive through the sentiment behind the production company’s name, described by its co-founders: “the name Anti-Archive invites one to rethink the relationship of films and filmmakers with the past and history.” In Cambodia, where memory and history is so sharply divided by the brutal Khmer Rouge genocide during the 1970s, an investigation into certain subjects can be not only traumatic but also impossible due to their eradication by the regime.
This is precisely what makes Golden Slumbers an elegant and moving work, not only of cinema, but of cultural history-making: Chou re-creates Cambodia’s cinematic past through the material artefacts which remain, but also through the testimony of directors Ly Bun Yim, Ly You Sreang, and Yvon Hem, as well as actor Dy Saveth and two gentlemen whose passion for cinema-going has remained so vivid they can recall details decades later. —Herb Shellenberger
Davy Chou is a filmmaker and producer based in Cambodia. In 2011, he directed the documentary Golden Slumbers (Berlinale Forum, Busan), about the birth of Cambodian cinema in the 60’s and its destruction by the Khmer Rouge. In 2016, his first fictional feature, Diamond Island, won SACD award at Cannes Critics’ Week. He is one of the founders of Cambodian production company Anti-Archive, which has produced several films by emerging independent Cambodian directors, including documentary Last Night I Saw You Smiling by Kavich Neang, which won the Netpac Award at Rotterdam in 2019. In 2021, he produced Kavich Neang’s first fictional feature, White Building.
Diamond Island (2016), Cambodia 2099 (2014), Golden Slumbers, (2011), Expired (2008), Davy Chou’s First Film (2007)