The People of AngkorLes gens d’Angkor
FRANCE / 2003 / Cambodian / Color / Video / 90 min
Director: Rithy Panh
Photography: Prum Mesar
Editing: Marie-Christine Rougerie, Isabelle Roudy
Sound: Sear Vissal
Music: Marc Marder
Producer: Anne Schuchman
Production Company, World Sales: INA (Michèle Gautard)
The history of the glorious Angkor dynasty is revealed in the temples of Angkor. A poor farming community near this site was a battleground in the civil war during the Pol Pot dictatorship, and is today visited by tourists from all over the world. The people engaged in the restoration of the ruins and a young souvenir peddlar in the area traverse the realms of modernity and eternity as they engage with the historical tales and legends engraved in the temple ruins. They must grapple with the dynamism of Khmer culture and its politics even as they hope for a brighter future. The director’s continuing effort to portray his homeland delicately depicts hope, and the sublime passing of time.
[Director’s Statement] This is not just one more film about the monuments of Angkor, their history or their architecture. This film is about the people who live there. An inside view in the shadow of the temples and the great kapok trees, an inhabited shadow that the world’s tourists pass through unawares, wrapped up in contemplating the treasures of Khmer art. On the restoration site at Bapuon, a team of workers are assembling the scattered stones of ancient low reliefs. As though in an enormous jigsaw puzzle, all the history of the ancient Khmers is gradually being sketched in before their very eyes: from the myth of the creation of the world to the epic narrative of the great battles, with a tranquil evocation of everyday life and a hymn to the beauty of the gracious Apsaras.
A young pedlar wonders what his future will be: he is too poor to go to school and has not learned to read. A former peasant, now a laborer on the restoration sites, feels he has been cut off from his land. He even misses the way he suffered when he worked the earth. Another peasant cherishes his fighting cock, named “Lemon Soup,” which carries with it all his hopes. In the cold light of the early morning, monks meditate and pray on the stones of the temple, which though dismantled is still inhabited by the gods.
And other destinies, intersecting each other and coming together, finally portraying a story, like the stones of the ancient temple. A story of pain and hope, where the past and present are intermingled, where the divine and human complement each other, and where humor enables people to express the anguish of survival, just as art transcends the contingencies of destiny.
(Taken from The People of Angkor press release)
Born in Phnom Penh, Rithy Panh graduated from the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques, Paris. He has made numerous award-winning theatrical and documentary features. Site II (1989) won the Grand Prize at the Amiens International Film Festival. “NEAK SRE” The People of the Rice Field (1994) and One Evening after the War (1996–97) were shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and the latter was screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 1998. Other works awarded prizes at international film festivals include Bophana, a Cambodian Tragedy (1996) and The Land of the Wandering Souls (2000), awarded the Robert and Frances Flaherty Prize at YIDFF 2001. S21, the Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2002) also won the Runner-up Prize at YIDFF 2003, and his latest film Les Artistes du Theatre Brule (2005) was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005.