Paris screening of Rithy Panh's documentary 'S21, The Khmer Rouge Death Machine'Paris – Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh’s new film, “S21, the Khmer Rouge Death Machine” – a documentary based on accounts of victims and perpetrators of the Cambodian genocide – will be shown for the first time in Paris on May 27 at the Cinéma des Cineastes. (*)
The film, co-produced by the Franco-German TV station Arte and France’s National Broadcasting Institute (INA), was supported by UNESCO’s Programme for Creative Content. It was recently shown as part of the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival and will be screened by Arte at 10.30 p.m. on June 2.
The film confronts a dozen former Khmer Rouge fighters – including prison guards, interrogators, a doctor and a photographer – with two victims, rare survivors of the death machine that was detention centre S21 in Phnom Penh. Between 1975 and 1977, more than 17,000 people were tortured, interrogated and executed at this prison. The torturers listen in guilty silence as the victims ask them to explain themselves.
Poeuv was a prison guard. When he was 12, he went to work at S21. He describes his daily task of seeing that the prisoners, driven mad by their suffering, did not break free of their handcuffs and jump out of the window.
Vann Nath, the prison’s official painter, was one of the thousands of victims and also one of the few survivors. He summoned up great physical and mental courage to return to the abandoned S21 prison for the first time in more than 20 years, seizing the chance, says Panh, “to say who were the victims, who was responsible and who obeyed the orders.”
Rithy Panh was born in Phnom Penh in 1964 and sent to a labour camp with thousands of others when he was 11 years old. He escaped four years later and settled in France in 1980. He regards his film as an effort to “confront our shared history and not leave the job to future generations. One day, our young people will once again trust the world they live in and the ghosts will torment the living no more.”
* The film will be shown on May 27 at 8 p.m. at the Cinéma des cinéastes (7, avenue de Clichy, 75017 Paris). Afterwards, at 9.45 p.m., there will be a public discussion featuring Panh, followed by drinks.