Monday, January 25, 2010

Sundance Films: Enemies of the People

Title: Enemies of the People
Director: Rob Lemkin, Thet Sambath

Summary: The Khmer Rouge slaughtered nearly two million people in the late 1970s. Yet the Killing Fields of Cambodia remain unexplained. Until now. Enter Thet Sambath, an unassuming, yet cunning, investigative journalist who spends a decade of his life gaining the trust of the men and women who perpetrated the massacres. From the foot soldiers who slit throats to Pol Pot's right-hand man, the notorious Brother Number Two, Sambath records shocking testimony never before seen or heard. Having neglected his own family for years, Sambath's work comes at a price. But his is a personal mission. He lost his parents and his siblings in the Killing Fields. Amidst his journey to discover why his family died, we come to understand for the first time the real story of Cambodia's tragedy. Co-directors Rob Lemkin and Sambath create a watershed account of Cambodian history and a heartfelt quest for closure on one of the world’s darkest episodes.

Thoughts: This documentary could turn out to be either award winning or ostracized. Enemies of the People is the sort of story countless directors dream of making but few (if any) ever accomplish. The very fact that directors Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath are willing to record (almost exclusively) the Khmer Rouge’s perspective could anger many people (ask an American what they would think of a film discussing the World Trade Center attacks from the Taliban’s perspective and you get the idea), but I think Sambath has the right perspective. As he states on the film’s website: “Some may say no good can come from talking to killers and dwelling on past horror, but I say these people have sacrificed a lot to tell the truth. In daring to confess they have done good, perhaps the only good thing left. They and all the killers like them must be part of the process of reconciliation if my country is to move forward.” Hopefully this film is as good as advertised and distributors are willing to show it in theaters.

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