(Status: In Development)

Sorya, a young Cambodian woman aged 17 years old, arrives in Phnom Penh to work in a textile factory with her best friend, Lida. With a hellish pace of work and no talking allowed, Sorya is not a natural at sewing, unlike her friend who rapidly works her way up the corporate ladder. Sorya prefers the nightlife and city living of the capital. One night, she is singing karaoke in Lucky bar. Everybody there is captivated by her voice. It’s the beginning of her path to stardom but between love affairs, friendships that are broken and then mended, desire and frustration, more trouble lies ahead for Sorya as she tries to find her path in life!

Director: Denis Do
Authors: Denis Do and Louise Dubois
Visual design: Tévy Dubray
Producer: Sébastien Onomo (Special Touch Studios, France)
Target Audience: Family
Technique: 2D digital, 3D digital

Sorya is the story of a 17-year-old woman from the countryside whose wonderful singing voice has placed her on the journey to stardom from her dead-end job in the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh. It is a new film project by Denis Do, the director of the multi-award-winning film Funan.

The project team revealed the full-length trailer, along with many pieces of concept art, in their pitch at Cartoon Movie 2021, with its upbeat song and impressive use of color. From the scenes sprinkled in the full-length trailer, we can expect a captivating drama where we can experience Sorya’s personal adventure, with her ups and downs along the way.

Interview with Denis Do

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let us know the outline of the film’s story and the key points that you would like to appeal to the prospective global audience?

Denis Do: The film will focus on Sorya, a young Cambodian woman. We will follow her through a small but an important part of her life. The moment when you are not really a teenager anymore but not yet an adult. I could say that the film will have two or more levels of understandings. The shape will deeply play with the Cambodian culture and environment. It will a huge tribute and opportunity to put the Cambodian rock of the 60’s under spotlights. An original and appealing art direction by Tévy Dubray, will invite to dive inside the unique ambiance of the nightlife we can find in south east Asia.

The deep content of the film will depict experiences, choices, success and failures. It is a film about emancipation, hopes and expectations for the future. It is important for me to tell story about Asian characters, especially for the western audience. And animation is always interesting because this medium can stand in the border between drawings/pictures, and realistic representation. To me, the characters aren’t only designs and drawings. But a real attempt to represent Khmer people.

Showing specifities but mostly expressing how everything is deeply identical and universal is an important part of the film.

HN: How did the project start?

Denis Do: The idea of the project directly started during the production of my first feature, Funan. I was spending hours working on the film, listening Cambodian rock music of the 60’s. Thinking and diving into the traumatic past of Cambodia. I understood and felt that dealing with the Khmer rouge period is quite typical and most of the time, when people describe Cambodia, it was through the Khmer rouge’s event.

Maybe because the animation process is quite long, I started to have enough of that. I had already digested the topic, the therapy was already done through years of researches and development. I needed to dive inside something different but also relevant.

The idea of Sorya appeared suddenly. And as Tévy, the graphic author and art director of the film, was part of the Funan’s team, I told her about the project and she was very enthusiastic. Highlighting the contemporary youth of Cambodia and letting them handle their past in order to drive themselves their future, was the core of our starting point.

HN: What do you and Louise Dubois take care in the most for writing the story?

Denis Do: I think Louise is really taking care of the psychologies of each character and their evolution all along the narrative wire. I originally set the basic structure of the story with all the characters. I think at this stage of development, I am more focus on explaining and highlighting my will of staging inside the writing process. As I was something very special and unique for the psychology and the reaction of Sorya, Louise is really bringing female sensitivities for the movie and characters. Things I could try to bring also but that I will always have less authenticity than her.

HN: I love the song behind the trailer, as it includes both the feeling of the nostalgia of Rockabilly and an oriental atmosphere, and I think music is very important element of the film. Could you please let us know more about the music in the film?

Denis Do: The song in the pilot is based on Penh Chet Tae Bong Mouy by Ros Serey Sothea, an emblematic singer and artist of Cambodian music of the 60’s. With other signature of this golden era, such as Sinn Sisamouth & Pan Ron for example, their songs will be in the core of the film. Re-interpreted by the rock band of Sorya, The Sabai. The film will also use contemporary original songs to be more anchored in the present time. Through the love of music, different characters will walk together, argue, love and hate. Music is here to emphasize passion and life. It will also create a unique atmosphere for the film.

HN: You showed a character design sheet with many characters in the video pitch. So, the story would not focus on just a few main characters; instead the story will have many main characters who will meet and influence Sorya.

If that is the case, what are your reasons and intentions behind using this style of storytelling, of having that many significant characters around her?

Denis Do: There are several characters in the film. All of them are surrounding and gravitating around Sorya. The story will mainly focus on Sorya only. But this movie is about life, relations, disappointment and happiness. We all need friends, mentors and family.

HN: Could you let us know the most important characteristic and goal of the visual design of the story’s universe?

Denis Do: I hope the visuals will attract audiences to have a look, to watch the film. It is our interpretation of day and night life in Cambodia. An original way to depict what we love. A strong and delightful culture we want to share and allow people to dive inside. We also expect to represent the diversities that fulfill Cambodia and also any societies.

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