How cinema brings dreams back to the former dump site

In Steung Meanchey, the 100-acre former waste dump in southern Phnom Penh (Cambodia), poor families still scavenge to build a life amid the rubble. Despite the desperation, there is a glimmer of hope: the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) is providing much-needed support and education to the community. Recently, the NGO treated 700 children and their families to an outdoor screening of the Cambodian action blockbuster Jailbreak. Barco was honored to provide the necessary projection equipment.

In the mid-2000s, Steung Meanchey was one of the world’s most infamous rubbish dumps. Nicknamed 'Smokey Mountain’, it was the home of thousands of families trying to make a living as waste pickers. When the Cambodian government closed the dump in 2009, a lot of the pickers remained, scouring the city’s streets each night for recyclables.

Abandoning Hollywood

In 2003, Hollywood executive Scott Neeson decided to take a sabbatical after leaving his position as President of 20th Century Fox International . During that time, he visited Steung Meanchey, and witnessed hundreds of children living and working in one of the most toxic environments imaginable. The image was forever seared into his memory. How could he ever go back to his Hollywood lifestyle after this?

In an extraordinarily bold move, Scott decided to give it all up and try to change what he saw. He moved to Cambodia and founded the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF):a registered NGO focused on delivering education, family support and development programs to the impoverished community of Steung Meanchey. More than a decade later, numerous free schools and clusters of sturdy steel houses emerge among the makeshift shacks. Every child is in school, learning English, Khmer, mathematics, science, the arts and digital literacy skills.  Of the first 200 students enrolled in CCF’s education program, 140 have entered university.

Fighting for a better future

Education remains CCF’s main focus, providing children with the abilities needed to lift their families out of poverty. The award-winning education program now counts more than 2,000 students working hard towards a better future. Recent initiatives, however, show that there is room for some well-earned recreation as well. 

On 9 February, 700 children and their families attended an outdoor screening of the Cambodian blockbuster Jailbreak. In this movie, directed by Jimmy Henderson, a simple escort mission to the infamous Koh Kla prison goes horribly wrong and a small team of law enforcement officers must fight to survive. Star actors from the movie, including Pu Dara, Phorng Dara and Cambodia’s female MMA champion Tharoth Sam were there to chat and pose with their fans. The cherry on top was a surprise performance by the popular band Kmeng Khmer, who bedazzled the audience with an amazing rendition of their hit song from the soundtrack.

Dream big, dream bright

Barco was honored to participate in this unforgettable experience by donating a DP2K-20c X1 projector. For most attendees, it was their first movie experience ever. In this way, CCF aimed to encourage the children of Steung Meanchey to dream big, and to not let circumstances hold them back.

"It was a remarkable evening,” said Scott Neeson. “This is one of the poorest communities in Cambodia, if not in all of Southeast Asia. Being able to bring this tale of persistence in the face of adversity to this group was absolutely fantastic, and we couldn’t have done it without the very generous donation from Barco. It made a major difference to one of the world’s most deserving populations."

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