Auteur writer-director Rithy Panh, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia that wiped out his family, makes films like nobody else. They are mostly ferociously intellectual, experimental and rigorous, but not easy to watch. That’s only partly because they so often explore grim subjects such as genocide, the rise of repressive political regimes, and how such states destroy memories and history through the various instruments of social control. His essayistic, meditative works, like his latest, Everything Will Be OK — which, like his previous The Missing Picture (2013), uses static clay figures and scaled-down diorama sets to explore his concerns (he has so little interest in narrative, the words “story” and “plot” mean nothing here) — impress with the heft of high moral seriousness.
But sheesh, watching them can feel like punishment. In the context of a film festival — Everything played in competition in Berlin this year, where it won a Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution — sitting through one of his films sometimes feels like an atonement the viewer must make for the privilege of being at the festival at all.