The Missing Picture

April 10, 2014



“There is no truth. Only cinema.”

Spoken by the narrator of Rithy Panh’s part-documentary, part-poetic memoir, The Missing Picture, the line refers to the footage of the collective farms taken by the cameramen of the Khmer Rouge depicting a working, productive society of ‘revolutionary’ comrades.  It’s a distillation of the thesis of Panh’s towering work on the traumatic history of his country and his youth that also functions as a withering riposte as well as a backhanded agreement to Jean Luc Godard’s belief that cinema failed by not capturing the concentration camps of the Holocaust.  After all, if the Nazis had filmed it, would they not have obstructed some elemental truth of it in favour of propaganda?  Even if they hadn’t, what would the value of seeing it have?  Using clay figures in miniature settings to depict his time as a teenager moving around the collectivist farms and eventually forests of Khmer Rouge Cambodia (or, rather, Democratic Kampuchea as it was known), Panh laments the false images captured by the government and attempts to reclaim the artistic representation of the atrocity.  Read the rest of this entry »