In Rithy Panh’s Graves Without a Name, a 13-year-old boy who lost his family during the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s attempts to find their graves. “It takes years to get lost. Nights. Days. Tears. Words. Until you forget the word ‘pain’,” the voiceover says.
The documentary will be premiered on August 29 at Venice Days, an independent section that runs parallel to the Venice Film Festival. It will then be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs from September 6-16.
The documentary has been scripted by Panh and Agnes Senemaud and also features testimonies from survivors. “As these voices are heard, we are treated to haunting and very beautiful images, of the construction of sacrificial materials, of a landscape whose soil is saturated with blood, of the faces of the dead appearing on the rippling surface of a stream,” says the synopsis on the Toronto festival’s website.
Born in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, Panh lost his family after they were expelled to a remote labour camp during the Khmer Rouge regime in the country. In power from 1975 and 1979, the Communist regime led by Pol Pot killed millions while trying to turn Cambodia into a socialist-agrarian country. Panh managed to flee to Thailand, and later moved to France, where he was schooled. His films examine the repercussions of the killing spree. Panh’s credits include S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2003) and Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell (2012). His documentary The Missing Picture (2013) won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival.