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Copyright 2001 Source:

[ April 23rd 2001 ]

News carrier The Age reports today of the growing ecominical interest from Cambodian officials of Hollywood producers choosing their relatively poor country for high budget motion pictures, and of the territorial price some regions will pay for such invitation.

They couldn't be happier that Hollywood has discovered a new, relatively inexpensive and until recently improbable location for filmmaking: Cambodia. Ordinary people in one of the world's poorest nations are pleased to pick up scraps - $US5 ($A9.74) a day for the lowest paid extras - from the Hollywood cash cow. If they're lucky enough to get in on the action. And official Cambodia, too - after nearly three decades of war, murderous revolution and isolation - is mostly eager for the kind of international exposure and big money that American movies can generate. Hard on the heels of Tomb Raider, a videogame-turned-blockbuster movie, Matt Dillon has come to star in and direct what he describes as an "atmospheric thriller'' called Beneath the Banyan Trees. Others are on their way.

That's what worries some officials, since tourist traffic largely streams toward one of the world's great architectural wonders: Angkor. Some United Nations cultural officials criticized the filming of Tomb Raider among those ancient temples in northwestern Cambodia. Aside from fear of physical damage, the film's very title rang foul, given that the temples are still being mercilessly pilfered by antique hunters. Ang Choulean, the official charged with protecting the monuments, said no damage was done, but he expressed concern about the possible effects of the film, which is based on the popular videogame and stars Angelina Jolie as sexy adventuress Lara Croft. "What I fear is this increased number of tourists, because in my opinion we are not efficient enough yet to manage this movement properly,'' he said, noting that even without Hollywood the number of visitors to Angkor has increased dramatically.

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