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Rithy Panh

27 January – 3 April 2010

The films of Rithy Panh centre on life in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia and the struggle to reconcile the country’s traumatic history with contemporary urban and rural experiences. Panh and his family experienced the mass evacuation of Phnom Penh in 1975, witnessing family members die from exhaustion and starvation in a remote Cambodian labour camp before fleeing to a refugee camp in Thailand. Working across documentary and dramatic features, Panh’s filmmaking practice explores individual and collective stories that give an emotional and material texture to the history and experiences of the Cambodian people. Panh migrated to France and in his early twenties studied filmmaking at the prestigious Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies) in Paris. He returned to Cambodia in 1990 and established Bophana: Audio Visual Resource Centre in Phnom Penh, which aims to preserve and develop Cambodia’s film, photography and audio heritage.

Please note: Le papier ne peut pas envelopper la braise (Paper Cannot Wrap Ember) 2007 will not screen as advertised at 1.00pm Sat 20 March due to the late arrival of screening material from Paris. The Rithy Panh short film in La prothèse (Lumières sur un massacre: 10 films contre 100 millions de mines) 1995 will be screened with Takhté siah (Blackboards) (2000) by director Samira Makhmalbaf in its place. A screening of Le papier ne peut pas envelopper la braise (Paper Cannot Wrap Ember) 2007 has been rescheduled for 12.30pm Thur 25 March.

Return to APT6 film programs
Site 2 aux abords des frontières (Site 2: Around the Borders) 1989 Ages 15+

Site 2 aux abords des frontières (Site 2: Around the Borders) 1989 Ages 15+

6.00pm Wed 27 Jan & 1.00pm Sat 30 Jan 2010 / Cinema A

16MM, COLOUR, STEREO, 92 MINUTES, FRANCE/GERMANY / KHMER (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR/SCRIPT: RITHY PANH / CINEMATOGRAPHER: JACQUES BOUQUIN / EDITOR: ANDREE DAVANTURE / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: CULTURESFRANCE

Rithy Panh’s debut film is a moving documentary on the lives of Cambodians displaced in the aftermath of genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge. Ten years after personally fleeing Cambodia for a refugee camp on the Cambodian—Thailand boarder, Panh returns to the camp to record the intimate story of Yim Om, a Cambodian woman struggling to raise her family in an environment of instability. Living amongst 180,000 refugees over a four mile area, Om discusses the emotional and physical devastation wrought by the Khmer Rouge regime which killed a quarter of the Cambodia’s population. Having witnessed intense suffering like many living in the camp, Om struggles daily with her reliance on humanitarian aid, the profound loss of culture and country, and the interminable wait to return home.

Neak Sre (Rice People aka Les Gens de la rizière) 1994 Ages 12+

Neak Sre (Rice People aka Les Gens de la rizière) 1994 Ages 12+

6.00pm Wed 3 Feb & 1.00pm Sat 6 Feb 2010 / Cinema A

35MM, COLOUR, STEREO, 125 MINUTES, CAMBODIA/FRANCE/SWITZERLAND/GERMANY, KHMER (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR: RITHY PANH / SCRIPT: RITHY PANH, ÈVE DEBOISE / BASED ON THE STORY BY SHAHNON AHMAD / CINEMATOGRAPHER: JACQUES BOUQUIN / EDITORS: ANDRÉE DAVANTURE, MARIE-CHRISTINE ROUGERIE / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: CULTURESFRANCE

Filmed in the Kandal Province situated along the Mekong Delta, Rice People is a powerful story of one family’s tenuous fight to eke out a subsistence living from their rice paddies in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia. Featuring both the beauty of the landscape and the hardships hidden beneath, this moving story follows Poeuv, his wife Om and their seven daughters over the annual farming of their rice crop and the joy and heartache this life cycle reflects. Balanced precariously between survival and economic failure this haunting film charts the family’s desperate struggle to hold ground as a series of unfortunate events pulls them into a downward spiral. Examining deceptively simple themes, Rice People explores the complexities surrounding love, loss, hope and frustration in rural Cambodia.

Bophana: une tragédie cambodgienne (Bophana: A Cambodian Tragedy) 1996 Ages 15+

Bophana: une tragédie cambodgienne (Bophana: A Cambodian Tragedy) 1996 Ages 15+

6.00pm Wed 10 Feb & 1.00pm Sat 13 Feb 2010 / Cinema A

BETACAM SP, COLOUR, STEREO, 60 MINUTES, FRANCE/CAMBODIA, KHMER (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR/SCRIPT: RITHY PANH / CINEMATOGRAPHER: JACQUES PAMART / EDITOR: MARIE-CHRISTINE ROUGERIE / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: CULTURESFRANCE

As demonstrated in their mantra ‘To preserve you is no gain; to destroy you is no loss’, the Khmer Rouge systematically decimated the foundations of Khmer cultural and social life, forbidding familial relationships, community ties and all forms of communication not sanctioned by the party. In Bophana: A Cambodian Tragedy Rithy Panh personalises this political and social upheaval through the ill-fated love story of a husband and wife caught amid the conflict. Separated by the party — Ly Sitha, an ex-monk turned Khmer Rouge cadre to Phnom Penh and Hout Bophana, to an enforced labour camp in Baray — the couple defied the rules by meeting in secret and exchanged love letters. At a time when any disobedience was seen as betrayal to the Party they were caught, tortured and executed for their transgressions. Constructed from the remembrances of their family, the forbidden love letters and finally their coerced confessions, Rithy Panh sparse observational style and uncompromising lens gives voice to the living and the dead offering an intimate look at life within the horror.

Un soir après la guerre (One Evening after the War) 1998 Ages 15+

Un soir après la guerre (One Evening after the War) 1998 Ages 15+

6.00pm Wed 17 Feb & 1.00pm Sat 20 Feb 2010 / Cinema A

35MM, COLOUR, DOLBY DIGITAL, 108 MINUTES, FRANCE/CAMBODIA, KHMER (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR: RITHY PANH / SCRIPT: RITHY PANH, ÈVE DEBOISE / CINEMATOGRAPHER: CHRISTOPHE POLLOCK / EDITOR: MARIE-CHRISTINE ROUGERIE / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: JBA PRODUCTIONS

Set in the early days of peace in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, One Evening after the War explores the personal ramifications of Cambodia’s traumatic history through the romance between a former soldier and an indentured prostitute. Returning to civilian life after fighting the Khmer Rouge on Cambodia's northern front, ex-soldier Savannah struggles to establish a new life in Phnom Penh. Living with his Uncle — one of the few of his family to survive the conflict — Savannah is forced to eke out a small income as a kick boxer. One evening he meets Srey Poeuv, a dancehall ‘companion’ and they fall in love. Unable to raise the funds to clear her debts to the dancehall’s owner, their fragile contentment is shattered when Savannah devises an ill-fated plan to free them both from poverty. 

La Terre des âmes errantes (The Land of the Wandering Souls) 1999 Ages 15+

La Terre des âmes errantes (The Land of the Wandering Souls) 1999 Ages 15+

6.00pm Wed 24 Feb & 1.00pm Sat 27 Feb 2010 / Cinema A

BETACAM SP, COLOUR, STEREO, 100 MINUTES, FRANCE, KHMER (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR/SCRIPT: RITHY PANH / CINEMATOGRAPHER: PRUM MÉSAR / EDITORS: ISABELLE ROUDY, MARIE-CHRISTINE ROUGERIE / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: CULTURESFRANCE

Named in deference to the thousands of people buried in unmarked graved across Cambodia, The Land of the Wandering Souls follows the lives of the workers hired to dig the trenches needed for the country’s first optical fibre cable, linking Southeast Asia to Europe. Digging amongst the detritus of war — both physical and emotional — Rithy Panh and his entirely Cambodian film crew spent four months working beside the labourers. In doing so he captured the dignity and resilience of the people even as they work around the strewn human remains and anti-personal mines left dormant since the terror of the Khmer Rouge. The film also highlights the widening gap between the wealth of the multinational corporations funding the project and the persistent poverty of the workers who will never be able to afford to use the system they are installing.

Les Gens d’Angkor (The People of Angkor) 2003 Ages 12+

Les Gens d’Angkor (The People of Angkor) 2003 Ages 12+

6.00pm Wed 3 Mar & 1.00pm Sat 6 Mar 2010 / Cinema A

35MM, COLOUR, STEREO, 90 MINUTES, FRANCE, KHMER (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR/SCRIPT: RITHY PANH / CINEMATOGRAPHER: PRUM MESA / EDITORS: ISABELLE ROUDY, MARIE-CHRISTINE ROUGERIE / PRINT SOURCE: INSTITUT NATIONAL DE L'AUDIOVISUEL / RIGHTS: CATHERINE DUSSART PRODUCTIONS / SCREENING FORMAT: BETACAM SP

Swallowed by tangled vegetation and wracked by modern wars, this once vast metropolis that represented the glory of Ankor between the 9th and 15th century is now a crumbling home to thousands of people caught between traditional lives and encroaching modernity. More than a celebration of temple bas-reliefs and facades of celestial dances, Rithy Panh’s documentary takes a personal look at the rhythms of daily life lived in the shadow of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious monument and tourist mecca. Panh interweaves the stories of monks, stonemasons, young peddlers, labourers and farmers, patiently highlighting the individual threads which combine to create a community embraced by the ancient past and bewildered by the horrors of their recent-past in a post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

S-21, la machine de mort Khmère rouge (S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine) 2003 Ages 15+

S-21, la machine de mort Khmère rouge (S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine) 2003 Ages 15+

6.00pm Wed 10 Mar 2010 / Cinema A

35MM, COLOUR, DOLBY, 101 MINUTES, CAMBODIA/FRANCE, KHMER/VIETNAMESE (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR/SCRIPT: RITHY PANH / CINEMATOGRAPHERS: RITHY PANH, PRUM MESA / EDITORS: ISABELLE ROUDY, MARIE-CHRISTINE ROUGERIE / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: CULTURESFRANCE

Wrapped in the ideological ambition of a classless agrarian utopia, the Khmer Rouge inflicted a regimen of repression, dehumanization and genocide in Cambodia on a scale that rivalled the worst of human tragedies of the 20th century. In S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine Rithy Panh explores the personal devastation surrounding the secret Tuol Sleng detention centre known as ‘S21’ or Konlaenh choul min dael chenh (‘the place where people go in but never come out’). A converted high school that now functions as a Genocide museum, S21 saw the interrogation, torture and execution of 17,000 men, women and children alleged to have conspired against the ruling party. Twenty-five years after these atrocities, Panh reunites two of the handful that survived — painter Van Nath and a mechanic Chum Mey — with their former prison interrogators in a devastating confrontation. The result is a powerful and painful discussion focused not on the broader political and historical context of the regime but the personal memories and experiences of individuals within the collective history of genocide.

Les Artistes du Théâtre Brûlé (The Burnt Theatre) 2005 Ages 12+

Les Artistes du Théâtre Brûlé (The Burnt Theatre) 2005 Ages 12+

8.00pm Wed 10 Mar 2010 / Cinema A

35MM, COLOUR, DOLBY DIGITAL, 82 MINUTES, CAMBODIA/FRANCE, KHMER/FRENCH (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR: RITHY PANH / SCRIPT: RITHY PANH, AGNÈS SÉNÉMAUD / CINEMATOGRAPHER: PRUM MESA / EDITOR: MARIE-CHRISTINE ROUGERIE / PRINT SOURCE: INSTITUT NATIONAL DE L'AUDIOVISUEL / RIGHTS: CATHERINE DUSSART PRODUCTIONS / SCREENING FORMAT : BETACAM SP

Set inside the charred remains of the Preah Suramarith National Theatre in Phnom Penh The Burnt Theatre is a fictional film that looks at the very real issues facing the cultural integrity of contemporary Cambodia. Focused around a small and dedicated troupe of actors who rehearse in the theatre’s ruins, Rithy Panh records the painful decline of the once proud and revered performance traditions of Cambodia. Faced with the mass appeal of Karaoke bars and nightclubs, the troupe witness the slow erosion of their cultural identity as they are forced to perform in these new arenas to financially survive. Lost in the construction shadow of an emerging casino, the ruins of the National Theatre have now become a monument to cultural indifference, global homogenisation and free enterprise.

Le papier ne peut pas envelopper la braise (Paper Cannot Wrap Ember) 2007 Ages 15+

Le papier ne peut pas envelopper la braise (Paper Cannot Wrap Ember) 2007 Ages 15+

12.30pm Thu 25 Mar 2010 / Cinema A

35MM, COLOUR, DOLBY, 90 MINUTES, FRANCE, KHMER (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR/SCRIPT: RITHY PANH / CINEMATOGRAPHER: PRUM MESA / EDITOR: MARIE-CHRISTINE ROUGERIE / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: CULTURESFRANCE / SCREENING FORMAT: BETACAM SP

Paper Cannot Wrap Ember gives voice to the exploited underclass hidden in brothels across Cambodia. Focusing on the daily lives of seven young women living in Phnom Penh, Rithy Panh interweaves evidence of human dignity, compassion and collective memory, utilising the camera to both record and actively listen to the unfolding stories. Disinterested in the sensational and sleazy world of the bars and pick up joints where the women work, Panh instead confines his film within the walls of their crumbling apartment building. Forced into prostitution for a variety of reasons — often to financially support their families — they are condemned to socially, emotionally and physically bleak futures. In this powerful and personal documentary, Panh allows the women to speak for themselves and to share their stories without judgement.

Please note: Le papier ne peut pas envelopper la braise (Paper Cannot Wrap Ember) 2007 will not screen as advertised at 1.00pm Sat 20 March due to the late arrival of screening material from Paris. The Rithy Panh short film in La prothèse (Lumières sur un massacre: 10 films contre 100 millions de mines) 1995 will be screened with Takhté siah (Blackboards) (2000) by director Samira Makhmalbaf in its place. A screening of Le papier ne peut pas envelopper la braise (Paper Cannot Wrap Ember) 2007 has been rescheduled for 12.30pm Thur 25 March.

Un barrage contre le Pacifique (The Sea Wall) 2008 M

Un barrage contre le Pacifique (The Sea Wall) 2008 M

7.30pm Wed 31 Mar & 6.00pm Sat 3 Apr 2010 / Cinema A

35MM, COLOUR, DOLBY, 115 MINUTES, FRANCE/CAMBODIA/BELGIUM, FRENCH (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) / DIRECTOR: RITHY PANH / SCRIPT: RITHY PANH, MICHEL FESSLER / BASED ON THE STORY BY MARGUERITE DURAS / CINEMATOGRAPHER: PIERRE MILON / EDITOR: MARIE-CHRISTINE ROUGERIE / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: FILM DISTRIBUTION

The Sea Wall is an adaptation of Marguerite Duras' classic novel, first adapted to screen by French director René Clément in 1958. Set in French Indochina (now Cambodia) during the early 1930s, the film recounts the experiences of a widow and her two children as they battle both natural elements and colonial corruption to survive on their rice farm. Terrified her growing children will leave, the mother (Isabelle Huppert) attempts to increase the families farming land by investing in property bordering the Gulf of Siam. Cruelly deceived by the administration, the land proves worthless as crops are destroyed when it floods regularly with the ocean’s high tides. Unable to accept the injustice, the mother rallies the local community and with the help of the farmers she attempts to build a sea wall. Captured in sumptuous colour by celebrated cinematographer Pierre Milon, Rithy Panh’s fourth narrative feature explores the social and political complexities hidden beneath the veneer of paradise.