The Missing Picture (Kieta E: Khmer Rouge no Shinjitsu)
Director Rithy Panh
Language French (subtitled in Japanese)
Opens July 5

Cambodian director Rithy Panh has made a career out of documenting the brutal rule of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, which murdered something like 2 million of its own people between 1975 and 1979. With good reason: His own family was lost to the genocide.

“The Missing Picture” (released in France as “L’Image Manquante”) was nominated for best foreign language film at this year’s Academy Awards and is Panh’s most personal film yet.

In the Khmer Rouge’s bid to return to “Year Zero” — where the old culture would be destroyed and a new one built from scratch — it destroyed all cameras, film and photos, essentially all recorded traces of the recent past. Panh attempts to reclaim his memories by creating dioramas using folk-art figures carved from wood, whose inherent cuteness is undercut by the tales of re-education camps, beatings and starvation. “The Missing Picture” has a powerful story to tell, but curiously it seems to lack passion; this may be partly due to a critic with a Latin temperament reviewing an Asian filmmaker’s work, but the measured, monotone narration and ambient drone soundtrack are soporific in effect and do the film a disservice.

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