Documentary Series Gives ‘Carte Blanche’ to Filmmaker

A series of films “Carte Blanche to Rithy Panh” opening Thursday at the Institut Francais will feature some of the most powerful documentaries ever made.

As the name implies, Rithy Panh was given free rein to select the documentaries that will be shown through Sunday at the Institut Francais and Bophana Center in Phnom Penh.

The filmmaker selected the work of two contemporaries with a long list of international awards and whom he has known for years: Josh­­ua Oppenheimer and Pat­­ricio Guzman.

“I felt it was important to show together the work of these two filmmakers, one [Mr. Oppen­heimer] who works a certain way, the other who is more calm, more strict,” Mr. Panh said on Monday. “Their work is very touching…in fact very, very personal. And I felt it would be good for the public to see it.”

“Carte Blanche” includes Mr. Oppenheimer’s two films relating to Indonesia’s death squads, which executed nearly 1 million people in the country in the mid-1960s. Re­leased in 2012, “The Act of Killing” centers on the leader of a death squad still celebrated by the right wing. “The Look of Si­lence,” re­leased last year, features an optician confronting the men who killed his brother.

A discussion moderated by Mr. Panh and French journalist Anne-Laure Poree will follow each film, with French, English and Khmer trans­­lations for the audience. Mr. Op­penheimer will participate via video link after “The Look of Si­lence” is screened at the Institut Fran­cais on Saturday afternoon.

Mr. Panh also chose to show Mr. Guzman’s 2004 film “Salvador All­ende,” on the life and death of the popular Chilean president who was killed during a right-wing coup in 1973 and the role played by the CIA to oust him. “The Pi­nochet Case,” which deals with the trial of the general who led the coup and sub­sequently ran Chile as a dictator, will also be shown.

“We have a similar way of working,” Mr. Panh said of Mr. Guz­man. “For us, documentary filmmaking is serious work with an im­­portant ethical, moral and political di­mension. We may do features, but we always return to documentaries, which is in-depth and meticulous work. For us, it’s a lifetime commitment.”

Two of Mr. Panh’s recent documentaries will also be presented: “The Missing Picture,” which won the top award in the alternative film category at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar in Los Angeles last year, and “France is Our Mother­land,” which presents a vision of French Indochina through the im­ages of European trav­elers in the early 20th century.

Finally, the film series will in­clude a “surprise” screening on Sun­day morning. “It’s a beautiful film by a really great filmmaker I had the chance to spend time with,” Mr. Panh said, declining to re­veal more.

The series is being presented in cooperation with Cambodian Liv­ing Arts (CLA) as part of its on­going program with the Bo­phana Center called “Acts of Memory.”

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