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Last night I attended a showing of the film Enemies of the People. It has won numerous awards and I can tell you they are well deserved. It is nominated for an Oscar this year and I hope it wins. I didn’t know quite what to expect as I had not seen reviews of the film but was following Sarah, a former volunteer now working in PP, who told us about it. She was very keen to go and now I know why. Thank you Sarah! The film is a revelation and works at many different levels. As a historical documentary, it provides a unique insight into why so many people died in the ‘Killing Fields’. As a personal memoire, it gives a sympathetic insight into a brave and committed journalist. As a human document, it is humbling and inspiring in equal measure.
Thet Sambath, the film’s co-producer and co-director, is a Cambodian journalist of repute. However, away from his day job, and in secret, he has for many years been conducting research, much of which ended up with film testimony, into the ‘killers’ who committed the murders of so many people between 1975 and 1979. The film results from these researches. It includes interviews with two men who were part of a ‘killing squad’ and who agree to tell all. It also includes interviews with Brother #2, Nuon Chea, now 82, before his recent arrest. The gentle presentation, the ‘gracious’ way in which Thet Sambath won the trust and confidence of the killers and the clever cutting of scenes and sounds make this a unique and very special work of art, not just an informative documentary.
After the showing (at the German Cultural Centre – only a foreign exhibition centre would dare to show the film as no official permission has been given for showing in Cambodia) Thet Sambath answered questions for about 45 minutes. I was greatly impressed with him as a journalist, as an ‘oral historian’ and as a person. His own father, mother and brother as well as other family members died in the ‘Khmer Rouge time’, when he was a small boy, and an emptiness in him drove him to this long term investigative project. Even his wife was unaware of what he was doing and of the unique and special archive which he has collected.
You can find out more at http://enemiesofthepeoplemovie.com/ Go to you local film house and demand that they put on a showing! It is a film that will stay with you for ever.
Here’s the trailer: