Anti-Archive is a Cambodian film production company created in January 2014 by Davy Chou, Steve Chen, and Kavich Neang. In 2016, Park Sung-ho joined as a partner, and in 2020, Daniel Mattes joined as a fifth partner. Anti-Archive produces and co-produces fiction and documentary films by the emerging, new generation of Cambodian filmmakers, as well as films by international, independent directors shooting in Cambodia. Among the projects the company has completed are “Diamond Island” and “Last Night I Saw You Smiling“, while “California Dreaming” is their last film.
The 16-minute short revolves around two girls. Sarita is visiting an ocean-front resort to get away from the hectic rhythm of Pnom Penh, where she meets another young woman, Sak, who works in the hotel and used to live in the city before she came to the resort. Sak takes Sarita to visit a house that was built in 1920, and while there, the two girls open up to each other.
The first thing one notices in the film is the quality of the production, and particularly the work done in the cinematography department by Douglas Seok, who portrays the tropical setting in all its glory.
The narrative focuses on the place of women in Cambodian society, with Sreylin Meas presenting a number of pointy comments through the girls’ dialogues. The fact that marriage is considered the only path for young women (even since they are 15 years old), particularly for the ones living outside urban centers is the most central one, along with the issues the hectic rhythms of the city cause to the people living there. Meas seems to propose an alternative, more sincere solution to both these issues in the finale of the film, which closes the narrative quite fittingly.
A very good job has also been done in the casting, with Sarita Reth as Sarita and Monysak Sou as Sak highlighting their differences through their overall appearance and the similarities all women share through their dialogues. Their performances suit the low-key, idyllic aesthetics of the film perfectly, an approach that is also implemented by Kavich Neang’s editing.
Overall, “California Dreaming” is a beautifully shot short that manages to get its messages through quite eloquently, despite its duration.