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New International Film in 2022 Expected to Boost Tourism in Cambodia

Posted by Mizpah Grace Castro on June 21, 2021
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Cambodia remains hotspot for film tourism with historical drama to shoot in 2022

New York-based production company SeaLion Films is set to begin shooting “37 Heavens” in Siem Reap, Cambodia early next year, in line with the Kingdom’s solid reputation as a premier movie setting destination. 

This new film production is expected to boost Siem Reap economy post-pandemic. The first international film to feature Cambodia in the industry was the 1965 adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel “Lord Jim.” Among the most impactful was the 2001 action film “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” which starred Angelina Jolie. However, the Kingdom has been a backdrop to plenty of films and documentaries dating back as early as the 1930’s. 

Jolie’s film was a box office success that grossed a total of $274,703,340 worldwide. The movie particularly brought into the spotlight Ta Prohm, a temple in the Angkor Archeological Park distinguished by the jungle root system seemingly fused into its stone passageways. The Red Piano, a bar along Siem Reap’s Pub Street, also rose to fame after Jolie deemed it her and the crew’s favorite during filming. 

The Kingdom saw a steady increase in international tourism in the years that followed, hitting the one-million mark (1,055,202 arrivals) in 2004 and the two-million mark (2,015,128) just three years later. The figure had been at 455,365 in 2000. 

“37 Heavens” will star English actress-producer Gemma Arterton as Jackie Kennedy and explore the Former First Lady of the United States’ diplomatic trip to the Kingdom in 1967. The story will center around the dramatic love affair revealed in a series of archived letters telling of a secret marriage proposal from Kennedy’s travel companion. 

Kennedy ended up marrying Aristotle Onassis in 1968. Prior to the film’s time period, she was spouse to Former President John F. Kennedy and widowed in 1963. 

The Cambodia-set movie pays further homage through its title, which is taken from a bas-relief found right in the south gallery of Angkor Wat. The sculpture depicts 32 levels of hell and 37 levels of heaven. 

Jamie Bialkower, who will produce the film alongside Graham Leader, shared that the plot would demonstrate “the impact that being ‘off the grid’ in Cambodia had on Jackie, that allowed her to get so close to David Harlech far away from the expectations placed on her.” 

Harlech will be portrayed by Guy Pearce, an Australian actor-musician. 

Bialkower also stressed how the landscape is a critical element of the film. 

According to the official plot synopsis by SeaLion Films, “37 Heavens” will address how “the promises made to others – even the implied promise of a public figure – take precedence over personal yearning and individual need.” 

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