I have to say that British filmmaker Alnoor Dewshi (77 Beds, Spiritual Rampage, Jomeo&Ruliet) kind of grew on me. His recent project, made for Prospero World, called Building, is a fascinating documentary about 1960- era apartment complex, located in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The iconic place houses around 3,000 inhabitants. And it is home to everyone: prostitutes, teachers and ordinary families. I loved the way Alnoor captured the place on camera. The inside look of the building looks like a lively market, with people washing their clothes publicly, teachers tutoring kids and men repairing whatever is there to repair. Every resident holds its own story, which makes this film more interesting. Apart from learning something about occupiers we also learn what’s behind the project itself.
The building was designed by the famous architect Vann Molyvann whose project supposed to solve overpopulation in the city. It looked very impressive in 1960s, white, well taken care of and with an impressive theatre next to the complex. Unfortunately, everything changed in 1975 when Khmers Rouges came into power. He expelled all the urban population from the city and the building remained unfinished. However, it hasn’t stopped people from moving in and inhabit the place. You can also see in the film how incredibly efficient residents are, they anarchically equipped their flats with electricity and running water. Someone once said ” This fascinating place hosts a multitude of parallel lives. It’s the result of collective, functional and independent creation”. I wouldn’t have described the building better myself.
The documentary is not only about the complex, it also a picture of the colorful Phnom Penh street life and its people: kids, traders and street performers. Of course it is not all beautiful and perfect, however, I really enjoyed watching the film and people in it. I found Phnom Penh residents to be welcoming. Even with nothing in their pockets they are still in good spirits. The music in Building adds a note to the documentary. I wish the film was slightly longer though, I don’t think 29 minutes is enough for showing the entire history of the building and its inhabitants. I think there is something mysterious about this place that should be investigate further. You can see Building for free on Alnoor Dewshi’s website.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Pictures courtesy of Alnoor Dewshi