Film Review: The Man Who Built Cambodia

The Man Who Built Cambodia | Christopher Rompré| 37’ | Cambodia | 2015

The Man Who Built Cambodia is a narrative documentary that tells about a legendary architech  from Cambodia, Vann Molyvann. Molyvann becomes interesting to be discussed because of his architecture works that representated new identity for Cambodia. This  documentary  is also presenting the journey of Cambodia in the process of being a modern country and developing like another countries of Asia.

Cambodia’s independency is not not recognizet by international world at first. In the 1953, Cambodia was declared it’s independency, but only given specially by France. After the independency, Molyvann is in his prime. His architecture works are always developing, spawned new style called by New Khmer Architecture. This new style of architecture is changing Cambodia’s face from architecture aspect but still not leaving the originality of Cambodia’s culture. Molyvann’s works decorates Phnom Penh and bringing this city as the most organized city in Cambodia.

Unfortunately, what Molyvann has made in order to give identity for Cambodia and especially Phnom Penh stumbled due to unstable political situation. Genocide and civil war in 1970 caused Molyvann works to get destroyed. This was caused Molyvann have to be outcasted for 20 years. His big name as an architech was not heard in a long time. When he came back, architecture field was underestimated by people, he saw Phnom Penh looked like something different.

The montage of iconic building in Cambodia explains further taht Cambodian architecture is having special characteristic, looks so magestic and rich in culture. Traditional touches like the existence of Pagoda and walls full of symmetric textures is the example of Cambodian architecture’s characteristic. The interesting thing from Molyvann’s works are the air circulation and natural room lighting for every building. The buildings that had been made seem so sustainabla, Molyvann had already been a green architec before this name is becoming a trend today.

Identity in the form or architecture is actually not yet owned by a lot of countries. This kind of resource is yet to be owned by Indonesia. Jump in to Indonesia, this country is still not having any architectural identities that seem cultural. Even the current built buildings are so far away from Indonesian special characteristic. Maybe still a few that we could fine like when we’re in Bali, with the buldings that look like temple or in Minang land with the special character building called Rumah Gadang. But the numbers can be counted by our own fingers.

This documentary is also presenting Molyvann’s concerns about architectural shape and city planning in Phnom Penh today. Same with Indonesia, where is big city is now crowded by the modern skyscrapers and took over public’s open space. Even so in Phnom Penh, Those skyscrapers are not maintaining Cambodian traditional architectural. Modernity has colonized everything.

Molyvann’s vision on public building in Cambodian is also not getting any attention from the government. In the film, they told us about the construction of the biggest stasion in Cambodia (National Sport Complex) that at the first time was designed bt Molyvann for the 1963 Asian Games, but in the end, it sold to Taiwanese company in 2001. National Sport Complex was  citizen unifying place, and gotten an Cambodian asrchitectural touch on it, and it all changed now. What is existing now is so far away from what had been made by Molyvann before, about a touch of Angkorian Architecture.

This film is also showing Molyvann’s pessimistic feeling towards architecture potential in Cambodia in the future. Starting from architectural education that in his opinion is still less in instilling patriotism, and lack of awareness from the diasporas to return to their native country and build up their country. The audience will be reminded that development is not always be oriented on medernity, development needs attitude. Borrowing a statement from Molyvann, “Architecture must understand clearly about its own use and function. A building isn’t just built for itself, for its own form.” [Valentina Nita/Ellyta Rahmayandi]

Christopher Rompré| 37’ | Cambodia | 2015

9 Desember 2016 | Ruang Seminar Taman Budaya Yogyakarta | 13.00 WIB

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