Documentary gives Khmer Rouge convict his say at Cannes
Sunday 15 May 2011
Duch, who oversaw the deaths of 15,000 people as a Khmer Rouge prison chief in the 1970s, portrayed himself Sunday as a victim of circumstances in a documentary screened at Cannes.
Cambodian director Rithy Panh filmed Duch a few weeks before the commander of Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21, became the first Khmer Rouge cadre to be tried by a UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh.
Panh apologised Sunday for turning down interviews about "Duch: Master of the Forges of Hell", saying a decision was imminent on Duch's appeal of a 30-year jail sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"I don't have the right to set out my opinions" while the appeal process is under way, said the film-maker, who was a child when his family perished under the Khmer Rouge.
"Duch: Master of the Forges of Hell", which in the style of French documentaries does away with a narrator, sees Duch speaking calmly and frankly from behind a desk carpeted with photos of his victims.
He does not deny his actions, but puts them in the context of the brutality with which the Khmer Rouge, under Pol Pot, imposed its brand of Marxism-Leninism on then-Kampuchea in the late 1970s.
"I tend to regard myself as innocent" and "held hostage" by the regime, said Duch, who today is 68.
"I just belonged to the police... I wanted to go up the ladder just like anyone else," he added.
Speaking in Khmer, but switching to French to quote Karl Marx and the International Declaration of Human Rights, Duch described himself to be "a stoic, not a sadist".
For the Khmer Rouge revolution to succeed, he recalled, it was deemed necessary at the time for detainees at S-21 to be tortured, then interrogated, then "destroyed".
"This is how the machine worked," he said.
Spliced into the film are re-enactments of interrogations at S-21 - a one-time high school that now is a genocide museum - and paintings from Vann Nath, who survived his incarceration there.
Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in the late 1970s in a bid to create an agrarian utopia, killing up to two million through starvation, overwork and genocide.
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
- 4 Here’s the damning letter Robin Williams wrote to his Mrs Doubtfire co-star's principal after they expelled her
- 5 Ferguson protests: 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein ‘arrested’ by police during St Louis demonstrations
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK