ARACELI PALAFOX WRITES – Amid political conflict and social uprising, Cambodia finds a sense of solidarity in the nation’s first Oscar nomination. Cambodian director Rithy Panh’s “The Missing Picture” is among the five final nominations in the “Best Foreign Language” film category.
Panh’s “The Missing Picture” is a largely autobiographical work, telling the story of his family’s suffering during the Khmer Rouge genocide of 1970. In his film, Panh hunts for any surviving history of the genocide in the hopes of conveying both his story and that of many.
The Khmer Rouge Genocide refers to when Cambodia was led by Pol Pot during the 1970s. He sought to reshape the nation, using an agricultural model similar to that used by the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong. The attempted collectivization of peasants resulted in more than a million deaths due to execution or famine. Panh’s work uses detailed clay figures, narration, and any available footage to illustrate small glimpses of his childhood memories from the work camps.
While Panh is not without previous recognition, this particular honor moves him differently. In his responses to the media he reiterates what this means for the Cambodian people, especially during such difficult times. The work has shown the true face of Cambodia and what its people are capable of. In Panh’s eyes, winning isn’t about beating the other finalists. It’s about bringing pride to his country through the art of cinema. In his eyes, they’ve already won.
“When you can make your people proud of their own culture, that’s a good thing…” – Rithy Panh
This year’s Oscars, dated for March 2, will be broadcast in 225 countries. Hopefully, fellow Cambodians will see one of their own be victorious.