Photo of MMA fighter Tharoth “Little Frog” Sam in "Surviving Bokator". Photos courtesy of Mark Bochsler.

Now in its fifth year, the Cambodia Town Film Festival returns with a pre-release of “Surviving Bokator”, a documentary about a genocide survivor, San Kim Sean, who returns to Cambodia to resurrect the ancient style of fighting, to be screened Sunday, September 17 at 2:00PM at the Art Theatre.

The Cambodia Town Film Festival is a four-day event, to be held September 14-17, that will introduce new studio and independent films and will showcase documentaries, foreign features and short films. Attendees will be able to participate in panel discussions and network with directors, producers, writers and actors.

“We want to give a platform for Cambodian and American storytelling and to bridge the gap from here to Cambodia,” said Caylee So, director and one of the co-founders of the Cambodia Town Film Festival.

The featured film chronicles Bokator, an ancient fighting style of the Khmer people in Cambodia that was almost lost in the Cambodian Genocide. According to the site Full Contact Martial Arts, Bokator can be translated to “lion fighter” or “pounding lion”, as it is taken from the words bok meaning to pound and tor meaning lion.

Bokator SKS Sketching

San Kim Sean sketching.

The film also features female MMA fighter and rising action star, Tharoth “Little Frog” Sam, who will be in attendance and will participate in a Q&A after the film.

Sam will also be appearing in Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father”, a bio-film about author and human rights activist Loung Ung, as she recounts her experiences during the occupation of the communist Khmer Rouge.

“Surviving Bokator” is produced by Sandra Leuba and directed by Mark Bochsler, who has 25 years of experience as a cameraman and filmmaker.

Bochsler has been working on the film for seven years now, five years of filming and two years of editing.

“I was on a working-holiday in Cambodia and I was looking to do something creative, something with movement or martial arts,” Bochsler said. “Combine Cambodia and martial arts and you get Bokator.”

BOKATOR Director Mark Bochsler

Mark Bochsler, director of “Surviving Bokatar”.

Through the film, Bochsler hopes to offset the negative stigmas that people in Western countries associate with Cambodia based on the nation’s dark past.

“Cambodia is a land of youth and optimism which is what I tried to capture, and Bokator is something Cambodians can feel proud about,” Bochsler said.

“The film was made with an international audience in mind, but we kept elements in the film specific to Cambodian people,” Bochsler continued. “I hope the film will be a sort of time capsule as there really aren’t any other feature-length documentaries on Bokator.”

The festival will be held September 14-17 and will begin with a private Filmmakers Welcome Reception on September 14 and a Kickoff Party on September 15. Screenings will be held at the Art Theatre in Long Beach.

The full lineup of screenings is available via the website here.

The Art Theatre is located at 2025 East 4th Street.

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].