Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 3:07 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (1)
  • Print

Oscar nominee fills in ‘The Missing Picture’ of killing fields

A three-star movie review of “The Missing Picture,” Rithy Panh’s Oscar-nominated account of the legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime, which terrified millions of Cambodians in the late 1970s.




Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 3 stars

‘The Missing Picture,’ a documentary directed by Rithy Panh. 95 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains disturbing subject matter). SIFF Cinema at the Film Center.

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
It's a pleasure to read a review by John Hartl again. He brings great expertise and... MORE

advertising

A uniquely subjective account of the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s, “The Missing Picture” is the work of Rithy Panh, a Cambodian native who left his homeland when he was an adolescent.

He witnessed the government’s executions of his family, as they were hauled off to labor camps or otherwise disposed of. Using old, revealing propaganda films and more recent footage, Panh mixes archival images with nonanimated clay figurines that represent the victims of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

As Panh paints these tiny figures and arranges them in groups and crowds in various dreamlike landscapes, he approaches a sense of spectacle that underlines how the brutal Khmer Rouge decimated the cities, destroyed the culture and took over the country.

“It all starts with purity and ends with hate,” explains Panh, who sees through the regime’s scrubbed images of tractors and rice-planting. “A Khmer Rouge film is always a slogan.”

This stylized approach is a long way from the realism of “The Killing Fields” (1984), which starred another Khmer Rouge survivor, the late Haing S. Ngor. But the impact is similar. It’s Panh’s insistence on sharing his experiences, as well as his wish “to be rid of them,” that makes the film so compelling.

Since his 2003 debut, “S21, The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine,” Panh has become a kind of conscience of Cambodian film. Covering much of this material in a book, “The Elimination,” cowritten with Christophe Bataille, he offers a picture that’s been missing since the end of Pol Pot’s regime.

Note: “The Missing Picture” was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign-language film (it was originally in French and lost to the Italian film “The Great Beauty”), but it is playing here in an English-language version narrated by Jean-Baptiste Phou.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►