Enemies of the People Director Rob Lemkin on Truth, Reconciliation, and the Cambodian Genocide

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01/10/2011 9:16 AM |

Thet Sambath and Nuon Chea, formerly Pol Pots second-in-command.
  • Thet Sambath and Nuon Chea, formerly Pol Pot’s second-in-command.

The documentary film series Stranger Than Fiction kicks off its next cycle of screenings tomorrow night at IFC Center with the film Enemies of the People, in which filmmaker Rob Lemkin follows his codirector Thet Sambath, a Cambodian journalist whose parents were victims of the Khemer Rouge, as he investigates the Cambodian Genocide, eliciting candid confessions from elderly mass murderers, including “Brother Number Two,” Nuon Chea, currently awaiting a war crimes trial. Lemkin, who’ll introduce the film tomorrow night, answered a couple of our questions.

Your and Thet Sambath’s film documents the Cambodian Genocide through a private investigation and person-to-person testimonials, for a global film-going audience, and I’m curious to hear if you have any thoughts on the relationship, generally or specifically, between this kind of inquiry and officially sanctioned ones, like the UN-sponsored trial Brother Number Two is currently awaiting.

A truth and reconciliation process (of which our film is a variant) is quite different from a criminal justice process. I would say they are incompatible.

I am not sure how much truth will come out from Brother Number Two’s trial. So the question then comes down to: do you want truth or justice? You can’t have both. My personal view is that the majority of Cambodians (and people in general) want to know WHY these things happen more than they want to see people punished.

read last month that the UN Tribunal had supoenaed your raw footage, and that you had declined to hand any over—is that still the case?
Yes that is still the case. However, by the time Nuon Chea gets to trial the film will have been shown on various television stations around the world so the court has already stated they will videotape and use the broadcast version for their purposes.

What is Thet Sambath doing now?
Farming, spending more time with his family, still working at the Phnom Penh Post, working on our second film—so busier than ever!