Medusa on the Mekong

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The snake-girl, Soraya, in Fay Sam Ang’s film ‘The Snake King’s Child’.

Here's something they don't teach in film school: how to make a motion picture in Cambodia, a war-ravaged country without such cinema essentials as, believe it or not, movie theaters. On top of that challenge, director Fay Sam Ang took on the additional burden of making a mythological film about a beautiful half-snake, half-human without the aid of digital special effects. Ang's solution: to glue live snakes onto a cap worn by his exceedingly cooperative leading lady, 17-year old newcomer Pich Chanboramey. "Sometimes the snakes would leap off her head," the director recalls, "and we'd have to chase them around the...