Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Missing Picture

You know, I don't know if we should've been in Vietnam. I've heard it was all a power play by the CIA to create and consolidate their influence in America's shadow government, and that isn't really as preposterous as it should be. The Gulf of Tonkin seems to have been dubious grounds for which to go to war, assuming it actually even happened.

I'm not even sure we shouldn't have pulled out, even if doing so emboldened the Soviets and Chinese, or that this wasn't a victory for popular revolt—even if the popular revolt was just the tool of communist agitators.

There is no doubt, however, that the aftermath of the Fall of Saigon was a series of atrocities, and also no doubt that information about those atrocities was largely suppressed in the USA for years.

Which brings us to this interesting little documentary called The Missing Picture. This is the story of the Khmer Rouge's democide of Cambodians in the wake of America's evacuation. It's the Cambodian version of The Act of Killing, basically, but where the latter film used moviemaking as an excuse to pantomime the horrors, this movie uses little wooden carvings. (There's also some archive footage but primarily it's wooden dolls.)

The carvings are set up in little tableaux to illustrate particular events that occurred, as the narrator (a young man at the time of the purge) describes the events he witnessed.

I've mentioned before that some things are too awful to directly stage, both in fictional films and in documentaries, and these sorts of slaughters tend to be among those things. The little dolls allow us to look at and contemplate the horrors without showing us something so directly horrible that we turn away.

It's a good strategy, and the primitively carved figures are still perfectly capable of reflecting the horrors the narrator experienced.

It's all very familiar, but no less horrible for it. The communists took over the farm (food is a human right, donchaknow) and so everyone ends up starving. Of course, while this is going on, they keep touting how popular their programs are and how much traffic they get on their websitehow much food their farms are producing.

I guess Pol Pot was a true believer, or at least managed to come across that way, wearing the same drab, awful uniforms as everyone else in that jungle mess. So there's that. On the other hand, there's the between two and two-and-a-half million deaths (in a country that had a population of about 7.5 million).

It's a short movie that can seem long, though not from being boring. The Boy and I were both greatly impressed. Unlike the previous Cannes film laureate A Touch of Sin, we both were impressed and moved by this film.


  1. This makes me think of "Superstar." I saw it loooooong ago, but I don't remember the Barbie being too effective.

    I would love to see this, but I've already seen one documentary about Pol Pot, and one's enough for me.

  2. The Molly Shannon flick?

    Oh, I can understand not wanting to see more. It's a nightmare. As I say, less is more, especially in dealing with geno/democide.


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