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When are Films Political? (Part 4): Enemies of the People

When are Films Political? (Part 4): Enemies of the People

Enemies of the People: World Theatrical Premiere will take place in Phnom Penh on July 21!

Directors/ Producers Thet Sambath and Rob Lemkin

This doc fills the vacuum left by our media’s lack of concern with reporting on real issues faced by people around the globe, in this case, Cambodia and the current trial – the first ever in Cambodia – for the war crimes of “Duch”, the prison chief at the notorious Phnom Penh Khmer Rouge (KR) detention center Tuol Sleng where it’s thought up to 14,000 were tortured and killed. A verdict is expected to be handed down on July 26.

The U.S. theatrical premiere of Enemies of The People will be July 30 at The Quad Cinema in NYC. The L.A. release is scheduled for Aug 6 at Laemmle’s Music Hall. It will be released by Wendy Lidell’s International Film Circuit ♀.

I saw this personal journey into the heart of the Killing Fields in Sundance and was supremely touched by the pain undergone by its narrator and the peasants forced into the army and forced to kill on behalf of a government they were never able to confront until this film was made.

One of the most harrowing and compelling personal documentaries of our time, Enemies of the PeopleE exposes for the first time the truth about the Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge who were behind Cambodia’s horrific genocide. More than simply an inquiry into Cambodia’s experience, however, Enemies of the People is a profound meditation on the nature of good and evil, shedding light on the capacity of some people to do terrible things and for others to forgive them.

Winner of a dozen top documentary festival awards, including a Special Jury Prize at Sundance and the Grand Jury Award at the Full Frame Documentary Festival, this is a riveting film that takes audiences as close to witnessing evil as they are ever likely to get. It is also a personal journey into the heart of darkness by journalist/filmmaker Thet Sambath, whose family was wiped out in the Killing Fields, but whose patience and discipline elicits unprecedented on-camera confessions from perpetrators at all levels of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy. This is investigative journalism of the highest order.

“One of the most gripping and moving films I have ever seen.”
— Andrew Marr, BBC Radio

In 1974, Thet Sambath’s father became one of the nearly two million people who were murdered by the Khmer Rouge when he refused to give them his buffalo. Sambath’s mother was forced to marry a Khmer Rouge militiaman and died in childbirth in 1976, while his eldest brother disappeared in 1977. Sambath himself escaped Cambodia at age 10 when the Khmer Rouge fell in 1979.

Fast forward to 1998, and Sambath, now a journalist, got to know the children of some senior Khmer Rouge cadre and gradually earned their trust. Then, for a decade, he spent weekends visiting the home of the most senior surviving leader, Nuon Chea, aka Brother Number Two under Pol Pot. “But he never used to say anything different from what he told Western journalists,” says Sambath, “‘I was low-ranking,’ ‘I knew nothing,’ ‘I am not a killer.’ Then one day he said to me ‘Sambath, I trust you, you are the person I would like to tell my story to. Ask me what you want to know.’ For the next five years he told me the truth, as he saw it, including all the details of killing.”

Sambath also won the confidence of lower-level Khmer Rouge soldiers, now ordinary fathers and grandfathers, who demonstrated for him how they slit people’s throats. It was the first time these murderers admitted what they had done. He taped their interactions, and together with British documentarian Rob Lemkin created this landmark film.

For Sambath, it has been an ongoing, lifelong personal journey to discover what was behind such horror; he neglected both his family and his own happiness in the search for truth with hope of reconciliation. ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE is at once a cinematically beautiful, chillingly insightful, and deeply personal piece of documentary filmmaking.

“This heart-wrenching documentary presents shocking unprecedented testimony straight from the mouths of killers, and begins to answer how such a tragedy could have happened. Compelling. ”
– Dave D’Arcy, Screen International


Winner, Nestor Almendros Prize for Courage in Filmmaking,
Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010
Winner, True Life Award, True/False 2010
Winner, Special Jury Prize, World Cinema Documentary, Sundance 2010
Winner, Top Ten Audience Choice, IDFA 2009
Winner, Best Documentary, Santa Barbara 2010
Winner, Social Justice Award, Santa Barbara 2010
Winner, Best Documentary, Vera, Finland 2010
Winner, Grand Jury Prize, One World 2010
Winner, Outstanding Documentary Award, Hong Kong 2010
Winner, Anne Dellinger Grand Jury Award, Full Frame 2010
Winner, Charles E Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award, Full Frame 2010
Winner, Best Documentary, Beldocs 2010
Winner, Best Documentary, Oxdox 2010

A film by Rob Lemkin & Thet Sambath
UK/Cambodia • 2010 • 94 mins

Watch the trailer here:

Contact: Wendy Lidell, International Film Circuit 212-777-5690 wlidell AT

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