** Shortlisted for the 2011 Academy Awards**
"Inspiring. A testament to one man's persistent search for the truth." Stephen Holden - New York Times
The Khmer Rouge slaughtered nearly two million people in Cambodia in the late 1970s. Cambodian investigative journalist Thet Sambath spent a decade gaining the trust of the men and women who perpetrated the massacres to understand not only how they were able to commit such atrocities, but how the consequences of their actions echoed throughout their lives.
Enemies of the People, a remarkable and groundbreaking film, explores the nature of evil and redemption as it chronicles Sambath's quest.
In this brief but disquieting excerpt from the film, a kindly-looking old man explains the techniques he used to commit murder.
Thet Sambath (director/producer) is a senior reporter with the Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia’s premier English-language newspaper. He is widely regarded as one of Cambodia’s best investigative reporters and his stories have been syndicated all over the world. He has worked for the American Refugee Committee as a paramedic on the Thai-Cambodia border; as a police interpreter for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC); and as a human rights investigator for LICADHO.
Sambath's recent activities have included work as producer, translator and camera operator for many world broadcasting organizations, including BBC, WGBH Frontline, NHK and NBC. In 2002 he travelled to the United States on a Jefferson Scholarship. He lives in Phnom Penh with his wife and their two children.
Rob Lemkin (director/producer) is the founder and director of Old Street Films. He has produced and directed over 50 documentaries for BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky, The History Channel (US) and Arts & Entertainment. He has won numerous awards in Britain and abroad, and his work has appeared in major documentary strands for C4, BBC and ITV. He has made several films about the history and politics of Asia including The Real Dr Evil (BBC/Arts & Entertainment 2003), Who Really Killed Aung San? (BBC2 1997), Malaya: The Undeclared War (BBC2 1998), China: Handle with Care (C4 2001) and Bearers of the Sword (C4 2002). His music films include documentaries with Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack and Chet Baker (recently in retrospective at the National Film Theatre, London).
From 2001 to 2005 Lemkin ran an investigations unit for Britain’s Channel Four News producing dozens of hard-hitting films on subjects including Chinese snakeheads, Russian oligarchs, oil prospecting in Darfur, pension finance, the privatisation of British healthcare, working conditions in call centres, and gangmasters’ exploitation of undocumented labour.
Lemkin lives in Oxford with his partner and their four children.
North American Screenings
The Screen, Santa Fe, NM
Magic Lantern, Spokane, WA
IFC Center - Stranger Than Fiction, New York City, NY
15th - 17th & 20th January
Vancity Theatre, Vancover, BC
Peabody Essex Museum, Boston, MA
North West Film Society, Seattle, WA
Denver Film Society, Denver, CO
The Livingroom, Portland, OR
28th January - 3rd February
The Livingroom, Boca Raton, FL
Frozen River Film Festival, Winona, NM
For complete listings please check here.
Interview with Rob Lemkin
t21: What inspired you to make Enemies of the People?
RL: The Killing Fields were a mysterious and horrific event. But I always wondered who were the real people involved and what were they really like. Does this kind of thing happen because certain people are monsters and at certain times they get together to do terrible things? Or is it done by ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances? And what do they do about what they did? When I got to Cambodia I met Sambath and found he was already much farther down this same road, only for him it was deeply personal.
t21: Biggest obstacle in making it?
RL: Security. The security of our rushes and translations. The security of our film subjects. This is as big a problem today one year after completion as it was during the production. And unfortunately we expect it to be a mounting problem through 2011. Many people in Cambodia really don’t want this story to be fully explored.
t21:Most inspiring subject you met while creating this project?
RL: There were many many people. But actually the most inspiring is Sambath. Of course, he is my co-director, but also due to the unusual form of our film its subject too. His attitude to the men and women who destroyed his childhood world is inspiring for people who see this film everywhere.
t21: Favorite or most unexpected response?
RL: A group of Cambodian women who fled the killing fields in the 1970s and settled in Salt Lake City, Utah came to the Sundance Film Festival. They were reluctant to see the killers’ faces, but their kids dragged them to the screening. Afterwards, they asked Sambath if he could take them to meet Khoun and Suon next time they go to Cambodia, they wanted to hug them and thank them for telling the truth. We were surprised but incredibly excited by this transformative response.
t21: What do you hope viewers will take away from it?
RL: That we are all human whatever we have done. We are all capable of the most sublime things and the most terrible things. That the answer to human-inflicted horror and suffering is not retribution and revenge but truth-telling and reconciliation.
t21: If you were not a filmmaker, what would you be?
RL: A cocktail pianist on a cruise ship.
t21: Personal motto?
RL: Better to light one candle than curse the darkness.
t21: Favorite city or landmark in Cambodia?
RL: Cannot say, as that would give away the location of much of our film and therefore of our subjects to whom we have pledged our confidence.
t21: Best news source or website in Cambodia?
RL: www.mujestic.com – is a Cambodian-American website run by praCh Ly a great rapper based in Long Beach, CA. He is a very politically committed musician.
t21: Favorite public figure?
RL: Julian Assange.
t21: Last song that was stuck in your head?
RL: "Stormy Monday Blues."
t21: Last meal you made?
RL: A Bruce Bogtrotter chocolate cake for my partner Bridget’s birthday.
t21: Coffee, tea or water?
RL: All three, but not at the same time.
t21: Boat, plane or train?
RL: Train – ideally a sleeper on a long, winding journey.
t21: Latest obsession?
RL: Eating mince pies, it’s Christmas.
t21: Source of inspiration?
RL: My partner Bridget. If I can sell a project to her, I know it’ll be worth doing.
t21: First job?
RL: Night porter at a hotel off Oxford Street in the West End of London.
t21: Whom would you love to work with?
RL: Arundhati Roy – on Kashmir.
t21: Ten-year goal?
RL: To be involved in some kind of film studio in Oxford, England where I live which would have several local filmmakers working in different genres, but all sharing a commitment to creativity and social/ political action. Actually it’s a dream rather than a goal.
t21: Your next or current project?
RL: A film about soldiers blinded in war. It’s very unusual because it’s a re-make of an old documentary made by the great Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski called I Was A Soldier. His film was with veterans of World War II. Ours is with soldiers blinded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a mix of a highly formal art film and investigative reportage – combining to make a universal statement about war and human beings. Also a dramatic film about a friend of mine, an Englishwoman who was married to Saddam Hussein’s oil minister.
t21: Your question for us, t21?
RL: Why are you called t21?
t21: The name telegraph21 is both a nod to the nineteenth century invention that allowed people to communicate in real time, and an expression of bringing that same spirit of innovation into the twenty-first century.
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