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‘Enemies’ Documentary Seeks Cambodia Audience

Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea.
Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea.

The award-winning Khmer Rouge documentary “Enemies of the People” is expected to be shown in Cambodia in July.

Both filmmakers and subjects of the award-winning film say they want it to push reconciliation for atrocities committed by the regime by encouraging other perpetrators to talk about their past.

The film, showed at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in June, contains rare confessions from former Khmer Rouge cadre as well as interviews with the movement’s chief ideologue, Nuon Chea.

One former cadre, called Suon in the film, says, “I want to reveal to you all the killers I know.”

“When we find them and they confess the truth, I will feel better,” he says. “I want this documentary shown all over the country, in the provinces, in the cities. Then people who were killers in the regime will come forwards and say, ‘Yeah, I used to do that, too.’ Their public confessions will be an archive for the next generation. Otherwise, we will be gone soon, and the new generation won’t know the story.”

Co-producer Rob Lemkin, who worked with Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath on the film, agrees. With thousands of perpetrators like Suon, “they need to talk about what they did and they need to find a way of living easily with the other people who survived the killing field with other people who were victims,” he said.

Both say they hope the film will show in Cambodia in July.

“Enemies of the People” has won 15 separate awards, including the Nestor Almendros Award for Courage in Filmmaking at the Human Rights Watch festival.

“This is the kind of film that exhibits an immense amount of courage on the part of the filmmakers,” John Biaggi, director of the festival, said.

Co-producer Thet Sambath said he hoped the film’s distribution, along with a book, “could help more people come out to tell the truth about the history between 1975 and 1979.”

“If we don’t talk, this part of history will be buried, and the younger generations who don’t understand the truth will fight each other over this ambiguity,” he said.