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The Killing Fields (1984)

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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.

Director:

Roland Joffé

Writer:

Bruce Robinson (screenplay)
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4,275 ( 292)
Won 3 Oscars. Another 24 wins & 22 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sam Waterston ... Sydney Schanberg
Haing S. Ngor ... Dith Pran (as Dr. Haing S Ngor)
John Malkovich ... Al Rockoff
Julian Sands ... Jon Swain
Craig T. Nelson ... Military Attaché
Spalding Gray ... U.S. Consul
Bill Paterson ... Dr. MacEntire
Athol Fugard ... Dr. Sundesval
Graham Kennedy ... Dougal
Katherine Krapum Chey Katherine Krapum Chey ... Ser Moeum (Pran's Wife)
Oliver Pierpaoli Oliver Pierpaoli ... Titony (Pran's Son)
Edward Entero Chey Edward Entero Chey ... Sarun
Tom Bird Tom Bird ... U.S. Military Advisor
Monirak Sisowath Monirak Sisowath ... Phat (K.R. Leader 2nd Village)
Lambool Dtangpaibool Lambool Dtangpaibool ... Phat's Son
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Storyline

Sydney Schanberg is a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia. Together with the local journalist 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>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

He was a reporter for the New York Times whose coverage of the Cambodian War would win him a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. But the friend who made it possible was half the world away with his life in great danger... This is the story of war and friendship, the anguish of a country and of one man's will to live. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | French | Khmer | Russian

Release Date:

1 February 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Los gritos del silencio See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$14,400,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$32,181, 4 November 1984

Gross USA:

$34,700,291
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Pol Pot was still mounting an insurgency in Cambodia (after Vietnam had overthrown the Khmer Rouge) when the film was being made in neighboring Thailand. In fact, the Thai authorities were very keen to have the horrors of Pol Pot's regime depicted onscreen as it would bring international attention to the political situation there. See more »

Goofs

When Sidney meets Jon reading the newspapers, we can clearly see the jug of water away from the glasses, on the next shot it is closer. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Sydney Schanberg: Cambodia. To many westerners it seemed a paradise. Another world, a secret world. But the war in neighboring Vietnam burst its borders, and the fighting soon spread to neutral Cambodia. In 1973 I went to cover this side-show struggle as a foreign correspondent of the New York Times. It was there, in the war-torn country side amidst the fighting between government troops and the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, that I met my guide and interpreter, Dith Pran, a man who was to change my life ...
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Soundtracks

Band On The Run
Written by Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney (uncredited)
Performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
Courtesy of MPL Communiactions, Inc.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Thrilling story about loyalty , friendship , political intrigue and love during the horrible war in Cambodia
23 August 2010 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Thought-provoking war-drama based on the memoirs of N.Y. Times correspondent named Sidney (Sam Waterston) and his relationship to journalist assistant and guide named Pran (Haing S Ngor ) . Extraordinary feature debut for Ngor who won Best Supporting Actor Academy Award . Haing S. Ngor a real-life doctor who had never acted before and who lived through the deeds depicted at the movie , he became the first Southeast Asian ,and the first Buddhist, to achieve an Oscar ; furthermore also first film for John Malkovich who makes an awesome portrayal as intrepid photographer . Ngor's own experiences ( in real life he lived Cambodian war ) echoed those of his character and usually played Vietnam roles ( Tortures of war, Heaven and Earth,In love and war, Vietnam Texas, Eastern condor) until his violent death by an Asian band . This exciting story depicts the war chaos , Cambodian turmoil and primal bloodletting but most of the movie is a shattering re-creation of hell on Earth . Marvelous cinematography by Chris Menges who also deservedly won Oscar and filmed in Phuket, Railway Hotel, Hua Hin, Thailand and Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Ontario, Canada . Screeching and sensible musical score by Mike Oldfield that accompanies perfectly to the film . Roland Joffe's direction shows a generally sure-hand with a bit of melodrama at the end . Alain Resnais's seminal documentary ¨Nuit et Brouillard (1955)¨ was a touch-point for both director Roland Joffé and prestigious producer David Puttnam when they were preparing this magnificent movie.

This excellent movie contains a relentless criticism to Pol Pot regime , but also US and an exact description about historic events . In power, the Khmer Rouge carried out a radical program that included isolating the country from foreign influence, closing schools, hospitals and factories, abolishing banking, finance and currency, outlawing all religions, confiscating all private property and relocating people from urban areas to collective farms where forced labor was widespread. The purpose of this policy was to turn Cambodians into "Old People" through agricultural labor. These actions resulted in massive deaths through executions, work exhaustion, illness, and starvation. In Phnom Penh and other cities, the Khmer Rouge told residents that they would be moved only about "two or three kilometers" outside the city and would return in "two or three days." Some witnesses say they were told that the evacuation was because of the "threat of American bombing" and that they did not have to lock their houses since the Khmer Rouge would "take care of everything" until they returned.Money was abolished, books were burned, teachers, merchants, and almost the entire intellectual elite of the country were murdered, to make the agricultural communism, as Pol Pot envisioned it, a reality. The planned relocation to the countryside resulted in the complete halt of almost all economic activity: even schools and hospitals were closed, as well as banks, and industrial and service companies.During their four years in power, the Khmer Rouge overworked and starved the population, at the same time executing selected groups who had the potential to undermine the new state (including intellectuals or even those that had stereotypical signs of learning, such as glasses) and killing many others for even breaching minor rules . The Khmer Rouge forced people to work for 12 hours non-stop, without adequate rest or food. They did not believe in western medicine but instead favoured traditional peasant medicine; many died as a result. Family relationships not sanctioned by the state were also banned, and family members could be put to death for communicating with each other. In any case, family members were often relocated to different parts of the country with all postal and telephone services abolished. They committed crimes against humanity , the Khmer Rouge government arrested, tortured and eventually executed anyone suspected of belonging to several categories of supposed "enemies". Today, examples of the torture methods used by the Khmer Rouge can be seen at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The museum occupies the former grounds of a high school turned prison camp that was operated by Khang Khek Ieu, more commonly known as "Comrade Duch". Some 17,000 people passed through this centre before they were taken to sites (also known as The Killing Fields), outside Phnom Penh where most were executed (mainly by pickaxes to save bullets) and buried in mass graves. Of the thousands who entered the Tuol Sleng Centre (also known as S-21), only twelve are known to have survived.


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