This fall BAMPFA is honored to have Rithy Panh present two of his recent films in person. A survivor of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime, Panh has devoted his career to telling the stories of the perpetrators and some two million victims who died in extermination prisons and labor camps in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. Along with more than two dozen films, Panh’s project has included the creation of the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, which serves as an archive, training, and production center to preserve Cambodian cultural heritage and to encourage the next generations of storytellers. Working in both fiction and documentary, Panh uses innovative approaches to address the legacy of trauma in the nation of his birth. In his recent film Irradiated, he expands his field of vision, reflecting on the murderous man-made cataclysms of the twentieth century.
Writing about Irradiated for IndieWire, David Ehrlich noted that “Panh has long pursued new ways of seeing modern history’s most resonant nightmares; he’s always been desperate to reconcile the unimaginable with its absent sense of reality, and weaponize past trauma into a deterrent against the devastation to come.” At the end of an article written at the time of Irradiated’s premiere in Berlin, Panh reconsidered Theodore Adorno’s assertion that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” asking “Is poetry impossible after Auschwitz? I plead for more poetry, more creativity, more freedom.”
—Kate MacKay, Associate Film Curator