7.3/10
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13 user 29 critic

S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2003)

S-21, la machine de mort Khmère rouge (original title)
A unique documentary on the notorious S-21 prison, today the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with testimony by the only surviving prisoners and former Khmer Rouge guards.

Director:

Rithy Panh

Writer:

Rithy Panh

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13 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Director: Rithy Panh
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Cast

Credited cast:
Khieu 'Poev' Ches Khieu 'Poev' Ches ... Himself - Guard
Yeay Cheu Yeay Cheu ... Herself - Him Houy's Mother
Nhem En Nhem En ... Himself - Photographer (as Nhiem Ein)
Houy Him Houy Him ... Himself - Security deputy
Ta Him Ta Him ... Himself - Him Houy's Father
Nhieb Ho Nhieb Ho ... Himself - Guard
Prakk Kahn Prakk Kahn ... Himself - the Torturer
Peng Kry Peng Kry ... Himself - Driver
Som Meth Som Meth ... Himself - Guard
Chum Mey Chum Mey ... Himself - Survivor
Vann Nath ... Himself - Survivor
Top Pheap Top Pheap ... Himself - Interrogator & Typist
Tcheam Seur Tcheam Seur ... Himself - Guard
Sours Thi Sours Thi ... Himself - Head of Registers
Mak Thim Mak Thim ... Himself - S21 Doctor
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Storyline

Between 1975 and 1979, the communist inspired Khmer Rouge waged a campaign of terror and mass murder on Cambodia's population. Up to 1.7 mill. Cambodians lost their lives to famine, hard labor and murder as the urban population was forced into the countryside to fulfill the Khmer Rouge's dream of an agrarian utopia. In the former Security Prison 21 (code-named "S21"), which was once a high school and is today the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, director Rithy Panh brings two of the few survivors back to discuss what happened there between 1975 and 1979. Painter Vann Nath survived by chance and didn't suffer the same fate as 17,000 other men, women and children who were taken there, tortured and their so-called 'crimes' meticulously documented to justify their execution. The ex-Khmer Rouge guards respond to Nath's questions with excuses, chilling stoicism or apparent remorse as they recount the atrocities they committed at ages as young as 12 years old. To escape torture, the prisoners ... Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Cambodia | France

Language:

Khmer | Vietnamese

Release Date:

11 February 2004 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine See more »

Filming Locations:

Phnom Penh, Cambodia See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,302, 23 May 2004, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$21,678, 22 August 2004
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color
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User Reviews

 
Interesting Documentary that Needed More Balance
7 September 2003 | by raging bull-1See all my reviews

I saw this documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film offered powerful testimony from jailers that perpetrated torture and killings. As well, this film elicits the expected emotions from survivors. It was stunning to listen to members of the Khymer Rouge speak so candidly about their inhumanity and also portray themselves as victims that had been simultaneously coerced and indoctrinated into this movement. Very similar to ideas heard in Nazi Germany with the Holocaust and later at the Nuremberg trials. i.e. I was just following orders, I had no choice, or indoctrination similar to fascist propaganda. As powerful as this documentary was, I believe that the extensive testimonies that filled an entire film, limited the effectiveness of the genre. By filling the film with nothing but testimonies, the documentary became repetitive and detracted from the impact it could have had. Jailers acting out the daily routine of checking cells and the lengthy reading of forced admissions of guilt occasionally dulled the impact of other powerful testimony(Sometimes less is more). The director Rithy Panh searched for answers from the jailers, but the standard responses: "i was following orders" etc. would not suffice. He was looking for larger answers on the nature of humanity and what causes people to do such atrocities. The responses from the Khymer Rouge were unacceptable for Panh and he never got the answers that he seemed to need to start the healing process. I believe that more background into the history of Cambodia would have answered some of those questions. No one will ever adequately answer questions on the nature of humanity, but an investigation into the movement would have given many viewers insight into this horrific historical event. At the same time it would have made the testimony more powerful. The barrage of testimony almost made the atrocities seem common. The balancing of information and background with testimony, would have made this all the more powerful. Many people have a limited knowledge of events in Cambodia when compared to Nazi Germany or the Stalinist Purges and yet it is equally disturbing in both scope and sheer evil. I was hoping to be educated and informed whilst being numbed by the inhumanity. For the most part that did not happen. Nevertheless, the documentary is still well done. Much of the testimony is shocking, particularly the mass burials. A film that is well worth two hours of your life to watch, but not for the faint at heart.


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