The Missing Picture (L' Image manquante)
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In 1975, the Khmer Rouge took Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh. Within mere hours, the entire city was evacuated, its inhabitants forcibly transported via cattle car and wagon to the countryside in support of the repressive and violent regime’s bid to create a state built on the model of Stalinism and Maoism. This deportation is the ‘missing picture’ in Rithy Panh’s continuation of the project of recounting, documenting and accounting for the suffering visited upon the people of Cambodia during the years of the Cambodian genocide.
The film employs an almost astonishing device to describe the horrors of life for prisoners under the Khmer Rouge: painstakingly handcrafted miniature human figures that are used in tableaux of the various scenes the film descibes. Combined with archival footage of films from Cambodia’s golden age of filmmaking as well as documentary examples of the emptied capital city and forced labour in work camps, these toylike figures are disarming in that they are somehow endearing, even as they act out the gut-wrenching scenes of inhumanity the regime’s many victims were made to endure.
The common people under Pol Pot’s regime were reduced to nothing –as Panh suggests in the film, their choice was to be indoctrinated as revolutionaries or become fertiliser for rice. ‘The Missing Picture’ brilliantly revives the memory of those who disappeared, giving them an image that can be remembered, if not a voice.
About the Director
Rithy Panh is a Cambodian-French filmmaker, writer and producer. Born in Cambodia, he studied filmmaking at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinematographiques in France. His work as a filmmaker focuses primarily on the contemporary fallout resulting from the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in his homeland. Rooted in his first-hand experience of living in a remote labour camp, where he witnessed untold hardships and suffered irreparable losses, Panh’s works have a rare and striking authority.
He has directed numerous internationally acclaimed films, including ‘The Rice People’, which was selected for the Official Competition of the Festival de Cannes in 1994; ‘The Land of Wandering Souls’ (2000), which won several awards, including the Robert and Frances Flaherty Award at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival; the influential ‘S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine’ (2004), which took numerous awards around the world, among them the Albert Londres Award; ‘Paper Cannot Wrap Embers’ (2007), ‘The Sea Wall’ (2008) and ‘Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell’ (2012).
In 2013, Panh directed ‘The Missing Picture’, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won the Grand Prix in the Un Certain Regard section at the Festival de Cannes. His most recent directorial effort, ‘Exile’, once again considers the grave crimes and abuse of the Khmer Rouge regime. It won wide critical and public acclaim at Cannes in 2016.
Panh is dedicated to helping rebuild the Cambodian film industry. In 2006, with fellow Cambodian film director Ieu Pannakar, he opened the Bophana Audiovisual Resources Centre in Phnom Penh to collect audiovisual testimonies of the Cambodian people and make this heritage accessible to all. He is also a principal founder of the Cambodian Film Commission, an industry development organisation that includes the CFC Film Lab, a professional film training programme for Cambodians.
- Rithy Panh
- Rithy Panh
- Catherine Dussart
- Rithy Panh, Marie-Christine Rougerie
- Marc Marder
- Prum Mésa
- Sales Company
- Films Distribution
- Production Company
- Catherine Dussart Productions, ARTE France, Bohana Production
- Randal Douc