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30 Years Later, Reporter Reflects on ‘The Killing Fields’

At Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Sydney Schamberg lectures on Thursday, Nov. 15, 1985 on his experiences as a correspondent in Cambodia. The academy-award winning movie, "The Killing Fields," was based on Schamberg's reporting in the war-torn country. (AP Photo/Charlie Bennett)
In 1984 “The Killing Fields,” a film about the Khmer Rouge regime based on the experiences of New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg and his Cambodian assistant, Dith Pran, was released.

On the 30th anniversary of the film, Schanberg told VOA Khmer the film has over the years reached the right audience: the Cambodian people.

“It had made a lot of people who had lived through it feel that at least others now know what this genocide was all about and how they had suffered,” he said via Skype from his home in upstate New York.

Schanberg said the movie highlighted the work of the Cambodian assistants, fixers, and translators that made journalistic work during the war possible.

“We could never have done as good a job without the people who explained things to us,” he said. “To a journalist, that’s very important, and it’s important that people get credit for this.”

“The Killing Fields” received three Oscars, including one for Haing Ngo, for Best Supporting Actor, in the role of Dith Pran.

This year, another film about the Khmer Rouge, “The Missing Picture,” by Rithy Panh, has been nominated for Best Foreign Film. It’s the first time in the history of the Academy Awards that a film from a Cambodian has been nominated.

Schanberg praised Rithy Panh for the film and said he hopes it will be translated into many languages and distributed throughout the world.

“It’s a wonderful movie, and a very unusual movie,” Schanberg said. “I know it’s unfair to the other entries in that category for the prize that’s going to be announced later, but I would vote for this film with all my heart.”