The Killing Fields (1984) is set in 'year zero' of Pol Pot's cleansing campaign in Cambodia. The movie tells the story of an American reporter for the New York Times, Sydney Schanberg, (Sam Waterson) who goes to Cambodia to report on the effects of the Vietnam War and US military action. In Phnom Penh he works with Cambodian journalist, Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor). The journalists realise too late that Cambodia is on the brink of a 'bloodbath'. The first half of the movie (its very long) centres on the build-up to the Khmer Rouge arrival in the capital and the evacuation of civilians. During this time, Sydney ensures that Pran's family are flown to safety by the US military but convinces Pran to stay. Pran however is not allowed to remain with the foreign journalists.
The second half the movie revolves around Pran's resolve to escape from the Khmer labour camp. After Pran escapes, he literally stumbles upon the killing fields of Cambodia. Surrounded by the skeletons and dead bodies, Pran continues on his journey in an attempt to escape the atrocity. Through Pran's experience we witness the 'reeducation' of the Cambodian people much like under the Cultural Revolution in China. Child soldiers are used as look outs and killers. We see their indoctrination in classes where they are taught that children are separate from their parents and that their only loyalty is to the party.
Directed by Roland Joffe, the British film won three Academy Awards. The film had been nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing and Cinematography. It won for Best supporting actor (Haing Ngor), Best Editing and Best Cinematography. Haing Ngor, a doctor, had been held in labour camps for four years in parallel time to his character. It was his first film.
An informative film on the run up to the Cambodian genocide which resulted in 1.5 to 2 million deaths. The movie clearly highlights US involvement in the region and Nixon's role in bombing Cambodia and causing civilian casualties.