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The Killing Fields holds a 93% rating at the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 40 reviews from notable publications. Critic Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times: "The film is a masterful achievement on all the technical levels—it does an especially good job of convincing us with its Asian locations—but the best moments are the human ones, the conversations, the exchanges of trust, the waiting around, the sudden fear, the quick bursts of violence, the desperation."
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The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing and Cinematography. At the 57th Academy Awards on 25 March 1985, it won the Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (for Haing S. Ngor), Best Editing (for Jim Clark), and Best Cinematography (for Chris Menges).
In April 2013 Umbrella Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray.
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The Killing Fields was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in March 2010. The DVD is compatible with region code 4 and includes special features such as the theatrical trailer, audio commentary with Roland Joffé, an interview with David Puttnam and a BBC documentary titled The Making of The Killing Fields.
The American experience in Southeast Asia has given us a great film epic ("Apocalypse Now") and a great drama ("The Deer Hunter"). Here is the story told a little closer to the ground, of people who were not very important and not very powerful, who got caught up in events that were indifferent to them, but never stopped trying to do their best and their most courageous.
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Sydney: (Do) You forgive me? Dith Pran: Nothing to forgive, Sydney, nothing.
The screen is swamped by a bathetic, self-preening sententiousness.
In 1986, actor Spalding Gray, who had a small role in the film as the American consul, created Swimming to Cambodia, a monologue (later filmed by Jonathan Demme) based upon his experiences making The Killing Fields.
Of his role in the film, he told People magazine in 1985: "I wanted to show the world how deep starvation is in Cambodia, how many people die under Communist regime. My heart is satisfied. I have done something perfect."
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The executed were buried in mass graves. In order to save ammunition, the executions were often carried out using poison, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks. In some cases the children and infants of adult victims were killed by having their heads bashed against the trunks of Chankiri trees, and then were thrown into the pits alongside their parents. The rationale was "to stop them growing up and taking revenge for their parents' deaths."
Every scene of The Killing Fields (and every participant in its making) is in service of showing how abruptly a seemingly safe and vital individual can have everything essential stripped away.
Some victims were required to dig their own graves; their weakness often meant that they were unable to dig very deep. The soldiers who carried out the executions were mostly young men or women from peasant families.
One of the great films from what proved to be a great year for cinema, The Killing Fields hasn't lost any of its power over the ensuing 30 years.
A survivor of the genocide, Dara Duong, founded The Killing Fields Museum in Seattle, Washington, US.
Haing S. Ngor, who plays Pran, was himself a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime and the labour camps. Prior to the Khmer Rouge's 'Year Zero' he was a doctor based in Phnom Penh. In 1975, Ngor was one of millions who were moved from the city to forced labour camps in the countryside. He spent four years there before fleeing to Thailand.
A book of the film was written by Christopher Hudson.
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The Killing Fields (1984)
Dith Pran returned, with Sydney Schanberg, to America to be reunited with his family. He now works as a photographer for The New York Times where Sydney Schanberg is a columnist. Cambodia's torment has not yet ended. The refugee camps on the Thai border are still crowded with the children of the killing fields.
The Cambodian journalist Dith Pran coined the term "killing fields" after his escape from the regime.
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As the Khmer Rouge victory becomes inevitable, there are scenes of incredible tension, especially one in which Dith Pran saves the lives of his friends by some desperate fast talking with the cadres of adolescent rebels who would just as soon shoot them. Then there is the confusion of the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy and a last glimpse of Dith Pran before he disappears for four years.
With John Lennon's tune Imagine playing on the soundtrack, Dith Pran - now finally reunited with Sydney on October 9th, 1979 (according to a subtitle), narrates the last line of the film, affirming that Schanberg needn't ask for forgiveness because there was literally 'nothing to forgive":
The scene shifts to Schanberg calling Pran's family with the news that Pran is alive and safe. Soon after, Schanberg travels to the Red Cross camp and is reunited with Pran. He asks Pran to forgive him; Pran answers, with a smile, "Nothing to forgive, Sydney", as the two embrace.
Consistently placed high on film ranking lists, it is 100th on the BFI Top 100 British films list, 30th on the 100 Greatest Tearjerkers, and 60th on the American Film Institute's list of America's most inspiring movies.
If you see no more than one film a year, make this the one for 1984.
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A mighty accomplishment, and possibly the bravest Britflick yet made.
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The film's overall thrust -- angry, intelligent, compassionate -- makes this producer Puttnam's finest movie to date.