The Missing Picture

(L' image manquante)
(France, Cambodia, 2013, 90 mins, DCP)
PROD Catherine Dussart
SCR Rithy Panh, Christophe Bataille
CAM Prum Mesa
EDS Rithy Panh, Marie-Christine Rougerie
MUS Marc Marder
PROD CO CDP / ARTE France / Bophana Production


Driven from Phnom Penh as a boy by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, filmmaker Rithy Panh’s work has revolved around this traumatizing chapter of Cambodian history. Obsessed by the missing documentation of the Khmer Rouge’s reign over the country from 1975 to 1979, Panh creates here a piercing masterpiece. He utilizes a seemingly infinite number of carefully crafted clay figurines, set in evocatively painted tableaux to reconstruct cultural and personal memory and fill the void of “the missing picture," In summoning his own memories to give an impression of the time, and in allowing this representation safe distance through the use of constructed environments and figures to help tell the story, Panh intelligently avoids playing historian and instead offers something far more complicated and valuable than simple documentary.

Also incorporating footage from propagandist films of the time, Panh shows us the false to reveal the truth that exists between the lines. The Missing Picture, a monumental achievement lying somewhere between autobiography and lament, is a moving and moral act of introspection, a way of processing and understanding collective tragedy while doing battle with the corrosive effects of corruption and making invisible scars visible again.

"Rithy Panh has constructed his film in such a way that he is implicitly calling upon the viewer to intuit layer upon layer of buried or suppressed emotion. Think of his new film as a dam constructed to control the flow of an ocean of sorrow."—Kent Jones, Film Comment

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