Rithy Panh (Khmer: ប៉ាន់ រិទ្ធី; born April 18, 1964) is a Cambodian documentary film director and screenwriter.

Rithy Panh
Rithy Panh-3681.jpg
Panh Rithy

(1964-04-18) April 18, 1964 (age 58)
EducationInstitut des hautes études cinématographiques
OccupationFilm director
Years active1989–present
AwardsUn Certain Regard[1]
Albert Londres Prize
Joseph Kessel Prize
WebsiteBophana: Audio Visual Resource Center – Cambodia

The French-schooled director's films focus on the aftermath of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Rithy Panh's works are from an authoritative viewpoint, because his family were expelled from Phnom Penh in 1975 by the Khmer Rouge. One after another, his father, mother, sisters and nephews died of starvation or exhaustion, as they were held in a remote labor camp in rural Cambodia.


Early life, escape from CambodiaEdit

Rithy Panh was born in Phnom Penh. His father was a long time undersecretary at the Ministry of Education, a Senator, a school teacher and inspector of primary schools.[2][3]

His family and other residents were expelled from the Cambodian capital in 1975 by the Khmer Rouge. Rithy's family suffered under the regime, and after he saw his parents, siblings and other relatives die of overwork or malnutrition, Rithy escaped to Thailand in 1979,[4] where he lived for a time in a refugee camp at Mairut.[3]

Eventually, he made his way to Paris, France. It was while he was attending vocational school to learn carpentry that he was handed a video camera during a party that he became interested in film-making.[5] He went on to graduate from the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (Institute for the Advanced Cinematographic Studies). He returned to Cambodia in 1990, while still using Paris as a home base.

Career as directorEdit

His first documentary feature film, Site 2, about a family of Cambodian refugees in a camp on the Thai-Cambodian border in the 1980s, was awarded "Grand Prix du Documentaire" at the Festival of Amiens.

His 1994 film, Rice People, is told in a docudrama style, about a rural family struggling with life in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia. It was in competition at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival,[6] and was submitted to the 67th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the first time a Cambodian film had been submitted for an Oscar.

The 2000 documentary, The Land of the Wandering Souls, also told of a family's struggle, as well as showing a Cambodia entering the modern age, chronicling the hardships of workers digging a cross-country trench for Cambodia's first optical fiber cable.

His 2003 documentary, S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, about the Khmer Rouge's Tuol Sleng prison, reunited former prisoners, including the artist Vann Nath, and their former captors, for a chilling, confrontational review of Cambodia's violent history.

More post-Khmer Rouge events are documented in the 2005 drama, The Burnt Theatre, which focuses on a theater troupe that inhabits the burned-out remains of Phnom Penh's Suramet Theatre, which caught fire in 1994 but has never been rebuilt.

His 2007 documentary, Paper Cannot Wrap Up Embers, delves into the lives of prostitutes in Phnom Penh.

The 2011 movie "Gibier d'élevage" (in French, "The Catch" in English), is based on a 1957 novel by the Japanese Nobel Prize writer Kenzaburō Ōe, about the villagers' behavior when a black US Airforce pilot's plane is shot down and crashes over Japan (Cambodia in the movie).

The 2012 documentary, Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell, is about interviews with Kang Guek Eav, a former leader in the Khmer Rouge, also known as Duch, tried by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and sentenced to 30 years of prison, but appealing against the conviction. However, he was finally sentenced to life imprisonment after the appeal.

His 2013 documentary film The Missing Picture was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival[7][8] where it won the top prize.[9]

Bophana, the Audiovisual Resource Center - CambodiaEdit

Rithy, along with director Ieu Pannakar, has developed the Bophana Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with an aim towards preserving the country's film, photographic and audio history. The center's namesake is the subject of one of his early docudramas, Bophana: A Cambodian Tragedy, about a young woman who was tortured and killed at S-21 prison.[10]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rosa Ellen (31 May 2013). "Rithy Panh: the director on Cannes glory and haunted life". The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  2. ^ Panh, Rithy; Bataille, Christophe (2014). The Elimination: A Survivor of the Khmer Rouge Confronts His Past and the Commandant of the Killing Fields. ISBN 978-1590516751.
  3. ^ a b Panh, Rithy (1999). "Cambodia: a wound that will not heal". UNESCO Courier. Archived from the original on 2007-07-05. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  4. ^ Shankar, Lekha (2006-02-03). "Cambodian director talks about his work and the 'nuclear bomb' that struck his homeland". ThaiDay. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  5. ^ Turnbull, Robert (2007-04-05). "Staring down the horrors of the Khmer Rouge". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  6. ^ "Rithy Panh". Cannes Film Festival. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-07-13.
  7. ^ "2013 Official Selection". Cannes. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  8. ^ "The Missing Picture (L'Image manquante): Cannes Review". Hollywood Reporter. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  9. ^ "Cannes: 'The Missing Picture' Wins Un Certain Regard Prize". Hollywood Reporter. 26 May 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  10. ^ Rosenberg, Scott (2006-12-26). "Exclusive interview: Cambodian film director Rithy Panh – "Angelina Jolie, come visit the Audiovisual Center Bophana!"". Monsters and Critics. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-07-14.

External linksEdit