The Killing Fields (1984) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary

  • Sydney Schanberg is a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia. Together with local representative Dith Pran, they cover some of the tragedy and madness of the war. When the American forces leave, Dith Pran sends his family with them, but stays behind himself to help Schanberg cover the event. As an American, Schanberg won't have any trouble leaving the country, but the situation is different for Pran; he's a local, and the Khmer Rouge are moving in.

    - Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>
  • 1973. Sydney Schanberg, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, has just been reassigned to neutral Cambodia, into where the Vietman War will soon spill over. This spillover is largely initiated by the Americans without informing the Cambodian populace beforehand. A local named Dith Pran is to be Schanberg's interpreter guide. Schanberg and Pran, along with Pran's family, become friends over the subsequent years, the bond between the two men largely due to each having the other's back during potentially deadly situations. When western powers believe imminent indiscriminate bloodshed will occur with an escalation in the war, Schanberg is able to secure evacuation for Pran's family from the country. When the Khmer Rouge - the Communists - ultimately take over the country, Schanberg and other members of the western media with who he is associated are able to make it out of the country in April, 1975 - Schanberg ultimately back to New York - however without Pran, with Schanberg and his colleagues' covert attempts to evacuate Pran with them failing. Pran's life is in even more danger as the Khmer Rouge have killed every western-friendly Cambodian journalist they have captured. Thus begins what ends up being Schanberg's four and a half year campaign from the safety of US soil to get Pran out of the country, not only not knowing what atrocities Pran may have suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge and/or their North Vietnamese allies, but often not even knowing if Pran is still alive. This campaign ends up being a mission out of guilt as Schanberg feels largely responsible for Pran's predicament, something Schanberg's colleagues in the know have to remind him of during what is the acclaim he receives for his reporting on the conflict.

    - Written by Huggo
  • A journalist is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot's bloody "Year Zero" cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million "undesirable" civilians.

    - Written by Jojo Mac


The film opens in May 1973 in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. The Cambodian national army is fighting a civil war with the communist Khmer Rouge...

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