Rithy Panh uses clay figurines to tell the story of his family’s ordeal under the Khmer Rouge.
THE MISSING PICTURE (Rithy Panh) Rating: NNNN
Documentarian Rithy Panh has addressed the horrors of Pol Pot's Cambodia before - most memorably in 2003's chilling S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine. But in The Missing Picture he makes it personal, telling the story of his own family's ordeal under the regime.
With no footage available, Panh - who was 13 when the Khmer Rouge seized power in the spring of 1975 - films clay figurines in dioramas to give form to his own lost history. It's a technique that reframes an unimaginable event as something intimate and delicate.
Panh uses cinema as a catalyst for memory in a way similar to The Act Of Killing, recreating stylized images in an attempt to convey a profound truth, but the context is very different. There's no boasting here, just a profound emptiness as the middle-aged filmmaker tries to pull meaning into what he experienced as a teenager.
The Missing Picture is a genuinely striking work of personal journalism, its artistry making it possible to consider the convulsions of Cambodia - and Panh's own life - without folding up into fetal balls in our seats. It's awfully powerful stuff.
Friday to Tuesday (May 30 to June 3) at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See Indie & Rep Film.