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Suon, a Khmer Rouge militia commander, in “Enemies of the People,” a documentary directed by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath. (Old Street Films)
“The Khmer Rouge has been a complex and political issue for a long time. But after 30 years, Cambodia is ready to cope with this,” said Chhang Youk, a survivor and the country’s foremost researcher of the regime. “You will begin to see more films about this subject now.”
“I’m no longer angry about the Khmer Rouge,” Chhay Bora, who lost two brothers to the regime, told the crowd. “I just want to share with the nation, and with the world, Cambodia’s untold story.”
“When our parents tell us about their experiences during the Khmer Rouge, we have a hard time believing them,” Lim Seang Heng, a 22-year-old university graduate, said after the premiere, echoing a common sentiment. “Telling stories is not enough, because we can’t see. Film allows us to see.”
English director Rob Lemkin worked with Thet Sambath to craft this raw footage into a finished film. The director was driven by a need to understand the killers’ motives (his parents and brother died under the Khmer Rouge) and to share what he found with other Cambodians.
“No one has confessed to killing during the regime,” he said. “I felt that maybe I could talk to the killers and understand why they killed.”