S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine

Overview

The brutality of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime is documented in Rithy Panh's documentary, S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine. S21 was a notorious detention center, an abandoned suburban schoolhouse used by the Angkor the Communist Party organization for the imprisonment and torture of thousands of innocent citizens. Prisoners were tortured until they confessed to false crimes, and were also ordered to incriminate others. Of the approximately 17,000 prisoners who were interred there, about seven survived. Panh ...
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Overview

The brutality of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime is documented in Rithy Panh's documentary, S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine. S21 was a notorious detention center, an abandoned suburban schoolhouse used by the Angkor the Communist Party organization for the imprisonment and torture of thousands of innocent citizens. Prisoners were tortured until they confessed to false crimes, and were also ordered to incriminate others. Of the approximately 17,000 prisoners who were interred there, about seven survived. Panh interviews two of the survivors, Vann Nath and Chum Mey. While Mey can barely bring himself to speak of the horrors he endured, including the loss of his family, Nath agrees to return to the prison, which is now the Tuol Sleng S21 Genocide Museum, and discuss his ordeal. Panh also brings back several of the Khmer Rouge personnel, who committed atrocious acts on behalf of the regime, many while they were still teenagers. The guards and interrogators give a horrific tour, reenacting their treatment of the prisoners, and going through the regimes detailed records, including photographs, to refresh their memories of the horror they took part in. Panh allows Nath to confront them about their actions, but most of them claim that they themselves were also victims, indoctrinated in the regime's poisonous ideology, and too afraid for their own safety to show any compassion for their victims. Panh himself was imprisoned at a Khmer Rouge labor camp as a teenager, before escaping to Thailand in 1979. S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine won the Prix François Chalais at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, and was also selected for the 2003 New York Film Festival.
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Special Features

director interview; Biography & filmography; Cambodia: A Chronology; HRW film notes; Trailer gallery
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
Rithy Panh's S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine is a grueling look at the murderous abuses that took place in a notorious Cambodian detention center in the mid- to late '70s. Panh's film is anything but sensationalistic, as he interviews victims and torturers who rarely get overtly emotional about what they experienced. The film is chilling in its depiction of the seemingly unrepentant jailers, who were essentially children while they held the power of human life in their hands. S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine subtly explores the seduction of power and brutality. Aside from a fascinating early scene in which Ta Him and Yeay Cheu, the parents of Kim Houy, one of the oppressors, try to persuade him to tell the truth about what he's done, for the sake of his karma, and another heartbreaking scene in which a former prisoner, Chum Mey, breaks down while trying to speak of his ordeal, the film is surprisingly staid in its tone. In fact, as the former guards and interrogators calmly discuss what they did, read from the regime's records, and pantomime the barbarous actions of their younger selves, the film gets a bit monotonous. They could be reading from a grocery list, which, in retrospect, makes Panh's film all the more powerful an indictment of those who "just follow orders." While these men are forthcoming with details about the atrocities they took part in, they offer little insight into what might have made them capable of such actions. A horrifying look at recent history, the film is less an analysis of evil than a heartfelt cry for justice.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/24/2005
  • UPC: 720229911573
  • Original Release: 2002
  • Rating:

  • Source: First Run Features
  • Presentation: Subtitled
  • Time: 1:41:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 16,355

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Vann Nath Participant
Chum Mey Participant
Kim Houy Participant
Prak Khan Participant
Sours Thi Participant
Nhiem Ein Participant
Khieu Ches Participant
Tcheam Seur Participant
Nhieb Ho Participant
Som Meth Participant
Top Pheap Participant
Peng Kry Participant
Mak Thim Participant
Ta Him Participant
Yeay Cheu Participant
Technical Credits
Rithy Panh Director, Cinematographer, Screenwriter
Cati Couteau Producer
Michele Gautard Cinematographer
Marc Marder Score Composer
Prum Mesar Cinematographer
Myriam Rene Sound/Sound Designer
Isabelle Roudy Editor
Marie-Christine Rougerie Editor
Aline Sassoon Executive Producer
Sear Vissal Sound/Sound Designer
Lianne Willemont Executive Producer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Bad Karma [8:13]
2. Paintings of Terror [7:01]
3. Confessional [9:52]
4. Guard Relationships [8:33]
5. Filling the Documents [6:54]
6. The Children's Unit [5:54]
7. Right and Wrong [8:17]
8. Essential Mission [12:04]
9. Broken Memories [7:30]
10. Motherhood [11:09]
11. Pain in Remembrance [13:34]
12. Credits [1:48]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Start Film
   Chapters
   Special Features
      Director Interview
      Director Biography & Filmography
      Film in Context
      Cambodia: A Chronology, 1953-2001
      Film Notes
      Human Rights Watch Selects
      Trailers
         War Photographer
         Howard Zinn
         The Trials of Henry Kissinger
         Dangerous Living
   First Run Features
   Human Rights Watch
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