Films about man’s inhumanity to man are deeply disturbing and horrifying in their cruelty. However, they need to be seen and reflected upon in an effort to prevent genocide from occurring again. The making and viewing of such films is the beginning of the expiation period so necessary in achieving the healing process.
Cambodia’s 2014 Official Submission for the Academy Awards is “The Missing Picture”, by native Cambodian director and narrator Rithy Panh. In this deeply personal film Panh laments the genocide of almost two million Cambodians carried out by the infaAmous Pol Pot regime under the Khmer Rouge during the 1970’s.
The magnitude of the systematic genocide is mind-boggling. The methods employed by the Pol Pot regime was to separate families, inculcate children and create an Agrarian-based Communist Party, devoid of capitalism in all its forms along with the country’s intellectuals, city dwellers, minorities of all stripes, and many of their own party members who were suspected of being traitors.
The title of the film “The Missing Picture” refers to the elimination and obliteration of all Cambodian film archives by the Khmer Rouge. They preferred to create their own film history as dictated by Pol Pot and his regime. In telling the story, Panh who lost his own father, mother and sisters to malnutrition, uses hundreds of hand painted hand carved clay figures to act out the events in diorama style of the brutal four-year reign of the Khmer Rouge.
Panh’s decision to tell his story with clay figures is a daunting method of filmmaking, which requires literally hundreds of hours of preparation and camera work. The documentary film intersperses what archival film footage was available from Cambodian, as well as, outside sources to paint a reign of terror designed to decimate millions of Cambodian citizens, just to prove that Pol Pot could create a new agrarian society using communist ideology.
The Khmer Rouge regime that lasted just four years, is a grim reminder of what can take place when the rest of the world stands idly by and lets a dictator have full sway. “The Missing Picture” is a sobering and thought provoking film, which hopefully, will find its way into theatres across the country.