“Documentary, personal essay, historical reconstruction, film poem, therapeutic exercise—”The Missing Picture” is something of all of these.“
–Jonathan Romney, Film Comment
“The audacity of “The Missing Picture” … is equaled only by its soulfulness.”
–Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
Rithy Panh is Cambodia’s leading filmmaker and foremost chronicler of the genocide that decimated his nation when Pol Pot tried to create an agrarian utopia through terror. Acclaimed for his groundbreaking documentaries about perpetrator guilt, Panh’s best known film is a very personal one, his Academy Award-nominated memoir, The Missing Picture. His quest to find a missing picture is, on a literal level, a search for footage shot by a Khmer Rouge cameraman, but the “missing picture” is a conceit that evokes all that is absent and inaccessible for him. It took years for him to assemble an archive of propaganda films that expose Khmer Rouge ideology and to envision clay figurines and dioramas that depict horror without turning viewers into voyeurs and his film into what Jill Godmilow has called “the pornography of the real.” History, memory, and art all come together in a film that demonstrates the power of art to respond to genocide with beauty and wisdom.
Panh was 13 when his family was evacuated to rural Cambodian where all but one of them died of starvation, over-work, disease, and despair. Rithy survived and escaped to a refugee camp and then exile in France. Educated at l’IDHEC, the prestigious national film school in Paris, he returned to Indochina where he has made more than 20 award-winning feature films over the past 30 years. Although he has collaborated with cinema luminaries like Angelina Jolie and Isabelle Huppert, Panh considers himself essentially a documentary filmmaker. He is enigmatic, unpredictable, and indefatigable in his quest to heal his nation and make new films.
Associate Professor of Media Studies Deirdre Boyle has taught at the New School for over 40 years. She is the author of the forthcoming Ferryman of Memories: The Films of Rithy Panh (Rutgers University Press). Her essays on Panh’s groundbreaking films led her to step back to examine his entire oeuvre, which took her to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Geneva, and Toronto and immerse herself in the cinema of a brilliant but haunted artist. Victor Torres Rodriguez is Deirdre’s research assistant and an invaluable editor and first reader uniquely qualified to interview her about Panh’s work. He joins a terrific group of graduate assistants, colleagues, and friends who have contributed their support and knowledge about colonialism, genocide, and trauma to Ferryman of Memories.
Presented by the Graduate Certificate in Documentary Media Studies
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