This is not just one more film about the monuments of Angkor, their history or their architecture. This film is about the people who live there. An inside view, in the shadow of the temples and the great kapok trees, an inhabited shadow that the world’s tourists pass through unawares, wrapped up in contemplating the treasures of Khmer art. In the cold light of the early morning, monks meditate and pray on the stones of the temple, which though dismantled is still inhabited by the gods.
Born in Phnom Penh and now based in Paris, the documentary filmmaker, Rithy Panh has made a life’s work of enshrining in memory the tragedy that befell the Cambodian people in the latter decades of the 20th century. Nearly two million Cambodians are estimated to have died, from starvation and extermination, in Cambodia’s Killing Fields between 1975 and 1979. Panh himself spent those years in a forced labour camp before escaping to a refugee camp in Thailand in 1979, at the age of 15. He made his way to France the following year, where he ultimately entered L’Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques (IDHEC), France’s national film school.