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S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2003)

S21, 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.


Rithy Panh


Rithy Panh
13 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »




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


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

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User Reviews

Marvelous work achieved by Rithy Panh
18 October 2004 | by ubu-3See all my reviews

This is a great movie about the Cambodian genocide. Refusing any sensational or sentimental approach, it is just made out of testimonies, and patiently, slowly tries to understand how such a thing could happen. The mechanics of the Khmer Rouge crimes, the paranoiac will to obtain (by torture) a "reason" (completely absurd) to kill their victims is terrifying. And testimony's of the torturers are striking of refusal. Patience, the intelligence and the firmness of one of the rare surviving victims give again fortunately confidence in humanity. This movie is made on a similar approach to Claude Lanzmann's "Shoah". Which means to place the testimonies in the center, and refusing any reconstitution or archive images. Maybe the only way to speak about such an event ?

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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 »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,302, 23 May 2004

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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