Sunrise in My Mind
Through an expertly pitched blend of realistic fiction, Sunrise in My Mind shows a view of a beauty salon in Phnom Penh at night which sparkles like a jewel box. The patterned aquamarine wallpaper plays off of the many pink objects inside, including the shirt of the film’s protagonist Pich, a beautician whose mind is clearly elsewhere. Against the strains of a soul song from the early 1970s by Pan Ron, the co-workers’ conversation moves toward the guy who has a crush on Pich, to which she acts demure and with indifference (but also with a private smile to herself). But Lay, a deliveryman who rides a motorbike through the city at night, reliably shows up to the salon. After asking Pich to wash his hair, we witness a moment of intimacy, though it’s unclear whether this is real or imagined.
Danech San’s second short film instantly creates an evocative atmosphere through the meticulously detailed setting of the beauty salon. The questioning of the line between fiction and reality—or between “life” and “movies”—comes from the dialogue of a film (Jivit Dara Pheapyun, 1990) which a salon customer is watching on a cracked smartphone screen in an early scene of the short film. While we could understand it simply as pertaining to realistic scenarios and dialogue, its use calls into question the film’s climax, where the CinemaScope aspect ratio shifts to an otherworldly sequence within a smaller and more intimate frame.
Sunrise in My Mind follows Danech San’s 2018 short A Million Years, Anti-Archives first film from the Echoes of Tomorrow project and another exploration of the shaky ground between fiction and reality which won awards at Hamburg International Short Film Festival and Singapore IFF. While the filmmaker is still active in production roles across television and film, she has increasingly been productive as a director, including the documentary short Sea Within a Sea, a commission from New Zealand’s Doc Edge Film Festival which looks at the growing concerns between nature and the increasing populations of the Cambodian island Koh Sdach. —Herb Shellenberger
Danech San (1991, Cambodia) is a director and has worked in different production roles on a variety of TV shows and films. After originally studying interior design, San turned to filmmaking, working with Anti-Archive on Three Wheels (Kavich Neang, 2015) as production manager, and Diamond Island (Davy Chou, 2016) as casting assistant and assistant production manager. Her debut film, A Million Years, world premiered at the 2018 Busan International Film Festival. It subsequently was named Best Southeast Asian Short Film at the 2018 Singapore International Film Festival and won the Arte Short Film Award at the 2019 Internationales Kurz film Festival Hamburg.
Sea within a Sea (2021), Sunrise in My Mind (2020), A Million Years (2018)