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Youth-Led Breakthrough Short Film Festival Ignites Social Change in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, March 27, 2024 – The groundbreaking Breakthrough Short Film Festival, organized by the youth-driven Breakthrough Movement, took place on March 24, 2024, at the prestigious Legend Cinema. In celebration of International Women's Day, this inaugural event showcased 33 powerful short films addressing critical social issues, including violence against women and girls, social inclusion, discrimination, women's empowerment, and victim-blaming. This festival marked a historic first as it was created by Cambodian youth specifically for their peers.

The Breakthrough Short Films project was developed over several months by the core team, with support from advisors at the Cambodian-Australian production house GoodMorningBeautiful Films and 21 dedicated volunteers. The festival transcended traditional cinema experiences, aiming to tackle the root causes of gender-based violence and create lasting change. Breakthrough firmly believes that “change starts with us.”

Khourn Sokheng, a co-founder of the Breakthrough Movement, stated, “Ending gender-based violence requires everyone to recognize their personal stake. We also need a critical mass of people to challenge and transform the enabling cultural norms. This is why the Breakthrough Short Film Festival is so important.”

Lim Sophorn, a former Chaktomuk Short Film Festival crew member and committee member, noted, “The organizers provided audiences with a safe and joyful space.” He added, “The youthful audience is a good sign that Cambodia is adopting a new feminist way of thinking. Holding such events annually can deeply embed this concept in the next generation's mindset.”

In the lead-up to the festival, the Breakthrough team traveled across the country, visiting over four towns and one city, and conducted 21 outreach events, engaging with more than 400 individuals. This extensive outreach effort resulted in an impressive 27 entries for the festival.

The festival featured a diverse range of media productions, including exclusive works for the competition and collaborations with esteemed partners like 606 Digital, CIWA, Klahaan, LoveisDiversity, Neary, Transparency International Cambodia, and NGO-CEDAW.

Over 250 participants, including young people, indigenous individuals, LGBTQI+ members, and people with disabilities, attended the festival. The highlight was the eagerly anticipated award ceremony, where the top 11 young filmmakers introduced their creations to an enthusiastic audience.

Leap Pheakna, Co-director of the winning short film "What If," expressed gratitude: “We'd like to thank the Breakthrough team for creating such an amazing platform for the community, enabling voices to be heard from the beginning to the end of the process.”

Somonyratana Sorn, the 2nd runner-up and a director from Sena Angkor, appreciated the effort: “We are happy to participate and appreciate the team effort in empowering women in our society through film. Thanks to the organizers, volunteers, and everyone involved in making this event possible.”

Ung Sivthong, a top 11 finalist and co-director of "Love Without Standard," shared, “We hope our short film delivers a message that provokes realization of one's inherent beauty. Embracing and improving what exists, rather than changing to fit a certain relationship, is perhaps a more meaningful approach.”

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