Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Enemies of the People

This film was a testament to the persistence of a Cambodian journalist who spent years building a relationship with men from the Pol Pot regime, right up to the second in command to Pol Pot (shown in the photo). He was eventually able to get them talking about their experiences killing people. These men spoke in careful, unmodulated voices - even when they were saying they now experienced remorse and shame for what they'd done, there was certainly no emotion identifiable in their body language, at least to this Westerner.

The most chilling segment for me was when the journalist asked for one of the men to give a demonstration of how he killed. The journalist was told to lie on his stomach with his hands behind his back, as the killer showed how he would pull his head up and back to slit his throat. He mentioned that his wrist could get tired after a number of such murders and he would change to a stabbing motion to give himself a rest.

Despite the admiration for the tenacity of the journalist who had gathered all this film in his spare time and his passion for documenting this period (during which his own father had been killed), the film was missing something for me. It didn't tackled the big themes - a better explanation of why Pol Pot embarked on this kiling spree, other a brief mention that it was internal conflicts. Nor did the men interviewed come to life for me as individuals. They gave the usual reason for the murders - orders from above - but I didn't get a strong feeling whether this was something they did unthinkingly, or with much internal angst. Neverthless, I would recommend this film.

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