The making of: Cirque du Cambodia

It’s difficult to believe the unpredictable circumstances that producers go through in pursuit of their passion for a factual encounter. Joel Gershon, a New Yorker who ventured into Cambodia in search of a possible factual story got more out of it. The young journal, producer and lecturer eventually spent 5 years fi lming and producing poverty stricken kids who took up circus to stay clean from drugs and crimes. His tagline: ‘From the rice field to the big time’ was literally what they have done. Joel tells K. Dass his big screen ambition when the funding comes in.

The Dream

The boys had great expectation and desired to join the globally renowned Cirque du Soleil. Who would even think of that? But they did. They even impressed the judges during the audition. Historically, they are the first Cambodians to actually get a shot into Cirque du Soleil. Now, there are able to spread the knowledge of their country as ambassadors in a certain way. Being the first Cambodians at Cirque du Soleil, they have broken the barrier. These kids didn’t speak French or English and they moved to a place where kids think they’re weird Cambodians as only privileged kids get the chance to attend expensive circus school. However, they are now among the best of the best in the world. They just graduated from the school in Montreal last June. One of the most interesting thing for me is the fact that they were on such a limited budget in Montreal, they were living on $30 a month, they had a dorm room and food but $30 in Montreal, you can’t even drink a cup of coffee daily with that amount. They basically got by with that $30 Joel Gershon Phare Ponleu Selpak but soon we were able to get some side jobs, one even worked illegally in a Thai restaurant. Soon they started getting circus jobs and getting more money but it was a struggle and eventually they made it through. They also received a lot of love and support from the Cambodian community in Canada. I’ve completed the project except for the final scene of them performing with Cirque du Soleil (in 2017) with all the glamour of the lighting, makeup, costume and the huge crowd. I’ve met up with Cirque du Soleil officials and they simply love the concept. My tagline for the film: ‘From the rice field to the big time’ is literally what they have done. I spent about US$25K to produce with most of the money going to equipment and travelling. I did everything on a shoestring budget and that’s possible in Cambodia.

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