1st Cambodian film in Oscar race
DIRECTOR Rithy Panh was 15 when he escaped the horror of a Cambodian labour camp under the communist Khmer Rouge. He never saw his parents or his sisters again.
His film, The Missing Picture, attempts to tell their story, from life before their incarceration to when they were caught up in the Khmer Rouge's merciless 1975 to 1979 rule.
The film has become Cambodia's first to be nominated for an Oscar, making the shortlist in the Best Foreign Language Film section at the Academy Awards, to be announced in Los Angeles on March 2.
"It is important to me, as a survivor, that we do not forget what has gone before us and the people who lost their lives," said Panh, 50, on the phone from Phnom Penh.
"The Missing Picture has two meanings - one is about a real story that we remember and the other is about what (pictures) we never see."
The Khmer Rouge sought to transform Cambodia into its vision of an agrarian utopia, which led to the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork, torture or execution.
As well as his parents and sisters, Panh lost 10 members of his extended family during the Khmer Rouge's reign.
"I cannot count all my cousins, aunts, uncles," he said.
"The second 'missing picture' is about my personal story. I regret that I do not see my father nowadays. If he was alive, maybe I would take him for a walk along the riverfront, or for meals. I cannot have this kind of experience."
As the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia was nearing its end, and Vietnamese forces began entering the country, Panh fled from his distracted captors, making his way first to an internment camp in Thailand and then to Paris.
He eventually turned to film as a means to deal with his past, studying at L'Institut des hautes etudes cinematographiques.
He returned to Cambodia in 1990 and developed a series of feature films and documentaries - including One Evening After The War (1998) and S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2003).