Enemies Of The People

"Excellent"

Enemies Of The People Review


A Cambodian journalist investigates his nation's darkest period in this lucid documentary. And watching it is deeply harrowing due to the verbal descriptions of what people did to each other in the name of improving their culture.

Around 2 million people died in the "killing fields" from 1975 to 1979, but no one really understands why. So reporter Thet locates surviving Kmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, second in command next to Pol Pot. After getting to know him for several years, Thet is finally able to coax Nuon into articulating what happened. To Nuon, they only ever killed criminal subversives, enemies of the people. "If we had shown mercy to these people, the nation would be lost," he says.

But this is only part of the film. Thet also travels to the killing fields and gets to know the local farmers who actually carried out the genocide under orders. Their memories are just as haunting in the grisly details, especially when they talk about killing parents along with their children.

The matter-of-fact honesty is as unsettling as the nightmarish stories these people tell. Thet even gets one man to demonstrate how he killed people. And there's a slippery reluctance for anyone to take responsibility for his or her actions, even as events surrounding the film lead to Nuon's arrest on genocide charges. This is strikingly strong material, extremely well-assembled to tell the story without sentimental excess.

The filmmakers mix beautifully shot images of the landscapes and faces with the limited historical film footage that exists plus grainy newsreels from the fields. "This is not for journalism," Thet tells Nuon. "This is for history." And indeed the film takes an approach similar to Claude Lanzmann's landmark documentary Shoah, interviewing survivors and witnesses to get intensely personal firsthand accounts of a horrific period in human history.

And there's also the added interest of Thet's story, as his parents and a brother died at the hands of the Kmer Rouge. By way of contrast, his wife and children are now annoyed at how much time and money he is spending on this film project in his spare time. Indeed, he spent many years gathering this material, and it's especially intriguing to see him reach the end and try to turn his attention from the past to the future.



Enemies Of The People

Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Run time: 93 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th July 2010

Production compaines: Old Street Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Rob Lemkin, Thet Sambath

Producer: Rob Lemkin, Thet Sambath

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