Rithy Panh Quotes.
We must be capable of writing our own history.
Cannes or Oscars is not only to bring happiness and recognition – they protect people like me. The world knows who you are. You can work. You can express. You can help other people. It’s not only the star system. It’s a symbol of freedom.
In this era of digital special effects, I think it’s good to work with our hands and our hearts, to use water and clay, to dry it in the air from the sun. This brings you back to the element of life.
You cannot build a cultural identity without the images and sounds of your culture. Most countries in the third world – poor countries – they’ve lost their memories. Because everyday, films and cultural artifacts disappear. Film is also a memory – of the character and imagination of a culture.
For the young generation, when they see that there is a film director from Cambodia to go on to be nominated, for them, a lot can change. I don’t know another way to restore our identity if it’s not art.
With ‘The Missing Picture,’ we’d shot for a year and a half already when this idea of the clay figurine, the life that comes from the earth, came to me, and I changed everything.
I think that, as a filmmaker, you’re always making the same film, regardless of how many different stories you tell. This is the case for me, whether I’m making documentaries or fiction films.
I never want to be a film director – I want to be a teacher.
Cinema is not truth. Even when you make documentary films, you can choose to show this shot and not the other shot – this side and not the other side. In cinema, there’s one truth – not ‘the truth.’ It’s only ‘my point of view.’ Cinema is powerful because of that.
When you make a film and it wins some award at a very select, very difficult festival such as Cannes, it’s good for your fellow film directors and fellow citizens too. Because it shows them that this way is a real possibility.
What I like to do with every film is to bring a form, like a cinematographic proposal. If you watch ‘S21,’ it’s a form; ‘Duch, Master of the Gates of Hell’ is a different proposal.
Sometimes if you can tell one personal story with a lot of sincerity, it can become a universal story.
I love archival films very much. I spent thousands of hours watching archive footage. Every time I see it, I see something. Sometimes I think I know this footage, but two years later, I see it again, and I see something new.
Filming, for me, is a way of approaching, little by little – of getting closer and closer to my subject. And that subject itself can transform, or it can remain the same.
When the Khmer Rouge reached Phnom Penh, the first thing they did was to evacuate the population. Then they took over. The point of a revolution is to bring justice to the people, so even if you don’t have proof of sabotage, you manufacture it.
If you can keep something very personal, like a song, like a color, like a story, deep in your heart, then nobody can destroy that. Nobody can destroy your imagination; nobody can destroy your love.
As children, we did not have toys. We invented characters and animals; we invented stories.
I like people who have the capacity to forget. I think that to forget is a good thing. Forgetting is good. But sometimes I cannot. For me, I cannot.
When I do feature films, I usually have a very strong sense of what I want to do. I have topics and subjects, so I go for it. I even know technically what I want to. But in the case of documentary, the story comes to me.
To me, form is not something that you can plan beforehand, especially for a documentary. You can’t write it or sketch it. It requires a confrontation with reality, with history, with ethics and morals. After identifying good content, you have to find the right form to express that content.
Clay is a very interesting and fundamental material: it’s earth, it’s water, and – with fire – it takes on form and life.
‘The Missing Picture’ is about my story and my parents. Before this film, I never said ‘I’ in a film, so it is very personal.
When you screen a film like ‘The Missing Picture,’ it is not like watching TV. Watching TV is very solitary. When you watch cinema, you watch it together, and you talk about it after the screening.
There is no book-learning culture in Cambodia. People do not read. The children do not read in school. Educators must come up with a policy that meets the great need for knowledge: using modern audiovisual methods that the young can connect with.
The Khmer Rouge can’t destroy me. I still have my imagination and am capable of making films. I am not locked up.
I didn’t survive because I was stronger than others. I survived because my family and friends helped me to survive. They took my place. My job is to give them back their dignity, tell their story, and say their names.
The Khmer Rouge tried to delete everything. They tried to erase our past, our personality, our land, our sentiment. What we tried to do in ‘The Missing Picture’ was to reconstruct our identity, to bring it back to the people through cinema.
Part of the Khmer Rouge project was not only to destroy individual people, but to destroy the very notion of the individual. I want to simply rebuild the stories of people – it’s part of my fight against the Khmer Rouge agenda.
Every day, do small gestures of generosity! It does not mean go to Cambodia. Do it at home. If you do nothing at home, evil becomes normal.
Art is freedom. If you defend art, you defend freedom.
When we pray to Buddha, we are not praying to a piece of stone, an image of Buddha, but we pray to the soul of Buddha behind the piece of stone. The souls of the people who are dead now are still with us.
I have only one life, and I can’t do all. If I do one thing well, I’m happy.
I love when you get the feeling of some social reality with a fictional film.
Of course, when you’re making a documentary, you don’t have actors, but nonetheless, there is a writing process that does take place in the editing room.
I wasn’t predestined to be a filmmaker; this wasn’t an obvious choice to me.
A country cannot develop without a strong identity.
People of my generation did not like very much to tell what we lived through during the Khmer Rouge regime.
Cambodia is not only a country of war, but also a country of culture. It’s in our DNA.
We need a peaceful, modern Cambodia. We need to achieve that. It’s not easy.