The Khmer Rouge carried out one of the worst genocides of the 20th century.
From 1975 to 1979 from 1.4 million and 2.2 million people died, with perhaps half of those deaths being due to executions, and the rest from starvation and disease.
The Missing Picture, which won the Certain Regard prize at Cannes in 2013, is a heart-rending account of the personal and political tragedies caused by their rule.
Cambodian film-maker Rithy Panh uses clay figures and newsreels to evoke the 4 year-long holocaust.
Panh dramatises his 1970s childhood through these painted clay figurines. A happy time, a Cambodia where people enjoy the normal pleasures of food, family parties, dancing and films, is brought to an end by the arrival of the black suited Khmer Rouge. As part of the middle class (teachers) his parents, with their children, are sent to be the countryside to be “re-educated” in the new ideology.
They are reduced to the level of beasts of burden, scraping what food they can.
All except Panh die, amidst great suffering and the hectoring slogans of their masters. The author himself ends up in the hardest labour camps, for questioning the inequality of rations in ‘Democratic Kampuchea’.
In the film Panh looks for the “missing picture”, that is of Pol Pot, and his murders, and the genocide.
There is archive material of slaves labouring on pharaonic irrigation projects, of the Khmer Rouge leaders addressing their followers, with the portraits of Marx, Lenin, Lenin and Stalin behind the podium.
The film makes clear that resistance was impossible but that individuals and families, by their simple dignity, refused to go along with the ideological terror.
The Missing Picture is a deeply affecting film.
Amongst the many images that haunt the audience is a calm statement: what were those in Paris and eleswherewho endorsed the Khmer Rouge slogans thinking?
One might well ask.
The reality of life in ‘Democratic Kampuchea was soon known to the world, and the French in particular after the publication in 1977 of François Ponchaud’s Cambodge année zéro.
News rapidly got round about the genocide.
Not, apparently, though to Alain Badiou. He waxed ‘enthusiastic’ about the Khmer Rouge . He defended them tooth and nail against the Vietnamese invaders who put a stop to their rule.
It was not until 2012 that the fêted philosopher and frequent contributor to New Left Review, expressed any “regrets” about this stand (Here).
People should see The Missing Picture and weep.
Including anybody tempted to admire Badiou.