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S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine

Director: Rithy Panh

(Cambodia-France| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. 101 mins.)


Director Rithy Panh continues to confront his country’s painful history in another powerful documentary about a ‘security bureau’ where the Khmer Rouge tortured and eventually executed thousands of prisoners. For his film, Rithy Panh returned to the detention centre (now a genocide museum) with one of the three men who survived and the guards who worked there. What makes Panh’s film so distressing is the way in which the guards justify their actions. As they re-enact their roles for the camera with an enthusiastic fervour—threatening imaginary prisoners with beatings and torture—it’s hard to accept their belief that they were also victims of the regime.

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