Enemies of the People takes a peek at “the project” of Thet Sambath, whose parents were among the approximately two million who perished under the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s. In an attempt to win their trust so they will admit to their deeds on camera, Sambath now spends more time and money on the erstwhile murderers than on his wife and children. We watch as Sambath contacts the culprits and confronts them with their past; one of them even demonstrates how he cut people’s throats. The filmmakers allow the horrific stories to speak for themselves, in contrast to the propaganda newscasts from back then, full of happily singing farmers. The only commentary is a recurring image of water in a rice field that flows so slowly, it is agonizing to watch. As the film progresses, it gradually reveals the scope and importance of Sambath’s hard work. The biggest fish in Sambath’s net turns out to be “Brother Number 2” Nuon Chea, Pol Pot’s right-hand man. When he gets arrested and tried by a Cambodian court in 2007, we see a series of ghastly images of the torture chambers that were his own creation. Meanwhile, Sambath has put an end to his project so he can concentrate on his own future.—IDFA
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Documentary as a form of cinema is something I grapple with more than embrace. While I admire its decision to seek the greater truth beneath the protective buffer of fiction that most narrative film… read review