Rithy Panh in Person: The Missing Picture
Rithy Panh, Documentary Film Director and Screenwriter, Cambodia/France; Khatharya Um, Associate Professor of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, UC Berkeley
This fall BAMPFA is honored to have Rithy Panh present two of his recent films in person. A survivor of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime, Panh has devoted his career to telling the stories of the perpetrators and some two million victims who died in extermination prisons and labor camps in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. Along with more than two dozen films, Panh’s project has included the creation of the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, which serves as an archive, training, and production center to preserve Cambodian cultural heritage and to encourage the next generations of storytellers. Working in both fiction and documentary, Panh uses innovative approaches to address the legacy of trauma in the nation of his birth. In his recent film Irradiated, he expands his field of vision, reflecting on the murderous man-made cataclysms of the twentieth century
Writing about Irradiated for IndieWire, David Ehrlich noted that “Panh has long pursued new ways of seeing modern history’s most resonant nightmares; he’s always been desperate to reconcile the unimaginable with its absent sense of reality, and weaponize past trauma into a deterrent against the devastation to come.” At the end of an article written at the time of Irradiated’s premiere in Berlin, Panh reconsidered Theodore Adorno’s assertion that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” asking “Is poetry impossible after Auschwitz? I plead for more poetry, more creativity, more freedom.”
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The Missing Picture
dir. Rithy Panh
Cambodia, France, 2013 (96 mins)
A daunting task that continues to confront media makers is how to represent the unrepresentable—calamities and atrocities of unimaginable magnitude. The challenge is even greater when the media maker himself is a survivor. Such is the case for veteran filmmaker Panh, who has committed his life to probing and exposing the Cambodian genocide and its aftermath. Having toiled in labor camps as a boy and watched his entire family die, he prepares to grapple with this childhood. Using clay figures, archival footage, and live action, Panh materializes the missing pictures for us, his companion witnesses. Stunningly vivid and achingly intimate.
Purchase tickets here.
Khatharya Um is associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion and associate professor and former coordinator of the Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies Program at UC Berkeley. She is also core faculty of the Center for Southeast Asia Studies and cofounder of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective.
Presented by BAMPFA, co-presented by the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs and the Center for Southeast Asia Studies, and sponsored by Unifrance.
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