Friday, July 30, 2010

From the Killing Fields, on a Mission of Truth

New York Times
July 29, 2010

“Some say that almost two million people died in the killing fields,” declares Thet Sambath, a polite, soft-spoken Cambodian journalist for The Phnom Penh Post, in the opening moments of the documentary “Enemies of the People.” He adds, “Nobody understands why so many people were killed at that time.”

Thus begins this intensely personal film, undertaken at some risk, in which Mr. Thet Sambath seeks the truth about the mass killings from 1975 to 1979 at the hands of Cambodia’s Communist Khmer Rouge government, which was responsible for the deaths of nearly a quarter of the country’s population.

The heart of the film, a collaboration by Mr. Thet Sambath and the British documentarian Rob Lemkin, consists of meticulously cataloged interviews conducted during nearly a decade with perpetrators of the mass execution, many of them rural farmers living in northwest Cambodia. As they open up and matter-of-factly describe horrific acts, the camera scours their weather-beaten faces.