Matthew Robinson – The Pope of Soap comes to Cambodia

In early June I traveling to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to shoot a documentary on the making of a Khmer soap called The Beauty of Life. Personally, I can’t stand Asian soaps. Bitchy women screaming all the time at their trying to be macho cheating husbands coupled with sickly love scenes generally doesn’t make for a pleasant experience. But the world is full of generalisations and this one and the story behind it is different.

If you were born in the UK, as I was, every household at some point in time would have been fixated on the BBC1 soap Eastenders. Dirty Den, Nasty Nick, the Mitchell brothers… the list goes on of characters iconified in this east-end London set soap that portrayed real life’s up’s and down’s without hiding it behind the gloss of television. Why am I wittering on about Eastenders you may wonder? (obviously being a bit of a fan). Well, now this particular Cambodian soap and others produced before it are having a helping hand from one of Eastenders original makers.

Nicknamed Pope of Soap by UK tabloid The Sun, Matthew Robinson was the lead director of EastEnders when it launched in 1985. In 1998 Robinson was appointed Executive Producer and during his reign EastEnders won the BAFTA for “Best Soap” in consecutive years 1999 & 2000.

In 2000 he left Eastenders becoming Head of Drama at BBC Wales. He left the UK altogether for Cambodia in 2003 where he worked for the BBC World Service after which he set up his own production company called Khmer Mekong Films which produces Khmer soaps, documentaries, reality shows and game shows for Cambodian audiences. In 2011 Cambodia Television Network, Cambodia’s most popular TV channel, commissioned Khmer Mekong Films to create and produce a brand-new 30 episode TV drama. Set in a family-run media production office, Beauty of Life follows the lives of the emotionally-torn relatives with humour, passion and pathos

The images above were taken during several days of following Matthew, his talented Khmer Director Tom Som and the team around Phnom Penh whilst they finished the final location shoots for the upcoming drama.

To see more of what Khmer Mekong Films do visit www.cambodiafilms.com.

To see more images from this shoot visit www.lukeduggleby.com and lukeduggleby.photoshelter.com.

 

The Revival of Kampot Pepper

Few know but Cambodia was once a major producer of high quality pepper called Kampot Pepper. The French began to grow pepper on an industrial scale in the 1890s and could not ship enough of the spice back home: 8.000 tons a year until World War One (today France consumes around 3.000 tons a year). In 1953, Cambodia gained independence and the pepper trade continued to flourish, but it was not to last. At the end of the 1960s, Cambodia slipped into the maelstrom of the Vietnam War. Five years later, the Khmer Rouge took over and confiscated the little pepper there was and told farmers to grow rice. Most of the vines died from neglect.

Now a Frenchman called Jerome Benezech has set up a business called farmlink, a company dedicated to
re-establishing Kampot pepper as a global brand by starting to export the product back to Europe again.

A full edit of image from this story can be viewed at lukeduggleby.photoshelter.com.

Chinese space tourist Jin Feibao

On my last trip to Kunming, China, I photographed a rather interesting Chines gentleman called Jin Feibao. In Jin’s words he is basically the person who rich people pay to go on incredible adventures. Such trips have included climbing Everest, walking across the Sahara, going to the North Pole and cycling from Kunming to Singapore are just a few. Then once he returns he creates large cultural exhibitions for the chinese public to learn about where he went.

But his next one has to be the most adventurous for Jin, at the end of 2011, will become China’s first ever space tourist. Training and flying with the US company G-Force One he will go up in a shuttle and orbit the earth from depths of space.

Oh wouldn’t we all like to be in Jin’s shoes!

To see more portraits of Jin visit lukeduggleby.photoshelter.com.