The Killing Fields

by Louise Adams
Friday Jan 10, 2014
The Killing Fields

I first learned about "The Killing Fields" from Spalding Gray's mesmerizing monologue-turned-movie "Swimming to Cambodia."

Gray, who played the U.S. Consul in "The Killing Fields," told of his filmmaking experience alongside the real history of Cambodia's communist Khmer Rouge guerillas, men who "carried out the worst auto-homeo genocide in modern history."

"Swimming," made in 1987, is more evergreen than 1984's "The Killing Fields," now released in hi-def Blu-ray, with director Roland Joffé's commentary, an original theatrical trailer, and a booklet of photos, trivia and production history.

The real "Killing Fields" were where perhaps two million unburied corpses were tossed into previously fertile rice paddies when Khmer mercenaries, many of them brainwashed children, murdered anybody who was educated -- or looked at them the wrong way -- in Pol Pot's "Year Zero cleansing campaign."

Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge murdered two million Cambodians in the "worst auto-homeo genocide in modern history."

The real story of New York Times columnist Sydney Schanberg (bearded Sam Waterston) is the focus of the film. Schanberg won a Pulitzer for his 1975 Cambodian conflict coverage.

Schanberg was befriended by Cambodian photojournalist and translator Dith Pran, who didn't make it out when Phnom Penh fell, and was forced into brutal work camps.

Both Pran and his portrayer, Dr. Haing S. Ngor, endured years of torture and starvation but eventually escaped to America. The film won three Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor for nonprofessional Ngor (also the first male Asian winner). Sadly, the former physician was murdered by a street gang in Los Angeles in 1996, after a subsequent film career. Gray committed suicide in 2004.

"The Killing Fields" should be revisited, and remembered, because the killing goes on.

"The Killing Fields: 30th Anniversary"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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