My Village at Sunset

Born into Cambodia’s royal family, Norodom Sihanouk has, in his lifetime, been the figurehead of the country’s independence movement, the author of a constitutional provision that essentially made him king for life, a secret ally of the Chinese and North Vietnamese, a political exile and the reinstated king after the country’s reformation. He actually holds the Guinness World Record for most political offices ever held by one person. But for all his political success, his favorite role is that of movie director (hey, why not?).

The film career of the complex, ethically tarnished monarch includes My Village at Sunset, which Sihanouk directed when he was fresh from exile and about to retake the throne. It’s the sappy story of a young Cambodian physician who returns from Paris to doctor his native village, tending to land-mine victims as he falls in love with a Mary Sue-like nurse. (We bet it’s a step up from Zabibah and the King, Saddam Hussein’s ghostwritten novel-turned-musical.) The film itself is curious, and its intent is totally baffling. Luckily, Sichan Siv, a Cambodian-born former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., along with scholars from Rice University, will be on hand at today’s screening to explain it. 6 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-439-0051 or visit www.ricecinema.rice.edu. Free.
Sat., Jan. 26, 6 p.m., 2008

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Nick Keppler