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Replay the Live Chat with Filmmakers Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath



POV: This live chat with Rob Lemkin of Enemies of the People will begin at 10 AM Eastern Time. If you're here early, you can enter your questions or comments now, and we'll get them to the filmmaker as soon as he's joined us!

SethYa: test ... ping from Phnom Penh

POV: Welcome Sambath!

SethYa: thank you!

POV: We'll be starting in about 30 minutes. If you have questions for Rob Lemkin or Thet Sambath, get them in early!

Thet Sambath: hello, I've changed the screenname, but for those here earlier, this is Thet Sambath, the journalist/filmmaker in Phnom Penh.

POV: We'll be getting started in just a few minutes with the filmmakers of Enemies of the People…

POV: Thanks for joining our live chat with Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath.

POV: Hello Rob Lemkin! Thanks for joining this live chat with POV viewers.

Rob Lemkin: Hello everybody, thanks for joining us

POV: And hello again, Thet Sambath, who's joining us from Phnom Penh.

Thet Sambath: Hello, and thank you.

Thet Sambath: Thank you.

POV: We have a first question from Rex, which is a good one for you, Sambath:

Comment From Rex
How did you approach Nuon Chea on your first meeting with him?

Thet Sambath: I had contact with former Khmer Rouge militia, and also cadres, and his relatives. Through those contacts, I got an introduction to Nuon Chea.

Thet Sambath: The first time, I talked to him by phone, to explain that we had mutual contacts.

Thet Sambath: He asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him I was researching KR history. He agreed, but said that he doesn't know my face. Basically, he was saying that he doesn't know me enough. We made an appointment to meet face to face then.

Rob Lemkin: Their relationship continued for nearly 10 more years. But it was not for 3 more years before Nuon Chea decided to start telling Sambath inside information

Rob Lemkin: Even when I was working with Sambath, Nuon Chea was not happy to talk about the details in front of me - only one-to-one with Sambath

POV: Two related comments…

Comment From Susan
Sambath, you faced Nuon Chea with such calm. Was it difficult not to express your anger in your meetings with him?

Comment From Theresa
Sambath, did you ever get angry and emotional when talking with the perpetrators? How did you manage it?

Thet Sambath: No, I felt no anger. My feelings were mixed at the time -- happy and worried.

Thet Sambath: Happy because he agreed to meet me -- that's rare. Almost no one had access to him at that time. So when he said yes, it was an honor.

Thet Sambath: But I also felt worried because, as you know, they always said the KR leaders were cruel. So at that time, I don't know what he's feeling or thinking, or his character --cruel or gentleman.

POV: Before our next question, we have a few comments coming from Facebook:

POV: Lisa Salaymal-Strohman: Surprised how composed Sambath was during the interviews with Chea. My uncle's wife, to this day, will not discuss her experience with the Khmer Rouge.

POV: Ted Marcus: I agree with Lisa. It was surprising to see his composure. And to his compassion for #2 being arrested at the end. I was glad to see the showing of so many of the human remains at the end so we saw #2 not just as the human being interviewed but the human being being interviewed and what he did to so many others.

Thet Sambath: But he's not like that. I talked to him many times, for many years. He always gave me good advice, to not support him, just interview him.

Rob Lemkin: Sambath still has a good relationship with Nuon Chea #2. The extraordinary admissions come from the depth of their relationship which didn't just end because our first film was finished.

POV: A follow up question for Sambath:

Comment From Kathy
Do you think he was genuinely sorry when you told him about your family being killed?

Thet Sambath: Yes, very. His expression was very sincere. If he talked more, it seemed to me he would have cried.

Thet Sambath: He didn't want to speak very much more about it. I stopped asking more. After all those years, we understood each other.

Comment From Walter B
What is the Cambodia government have to say about the film? has there been any backlash?

Comment From David
Has the film been shown in Cambodia? What has the reaction been?

Rob Lemkin: So far the Cambodian government has NOT given the film a license to be shown in theaters in Cambodia. This is because the history is still very sensitive.

Thet Sambath: We have no permission for screenings in the cinemas; it's been shown at a small venue only.

Rob Lemkin: However, we have shown the film in a German owned art cinema in Phnom Penh many times and the reaction has been electric.

Rob Lemkin: We hope to be able to show the film there may be next year. We are also making a second film and so it is all part of a much bigger process.

Thet Sambath: Government officials have told me that they don't want this film shown because it's a sensitive story. They say, because the KR tribunal is in session, it would complicate things.

Rob Lemkin: Next year we hope to be showing it widely around the country.

Rob Lemkin: It is sensitive because the current government is run by people who were in the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s

Thet Sambath: We are still seeking permission to get people to see it in public, and get them to learn about it. If they refuse, we can still release DVDs.

Comment From Astrid
Thank you for this incredible film. I really respect your decision to not hand the film over to the courts and to keep your promise to the perpetrators you interviewed, but have you been having second thoughts. I had read that you said you made the film for the people and not for the courts, but isn't justice for the people?

Rob Lemkin: The film is part of a much bigger process of truth gathering and telling. If we had given the film direct to the court it would seem to possible KR perpetrators and sources that we work for the court and the process would finish immediately.

Rob Lemkin: So aside from the ethical issue of journalist/filmmakers being true to their word and their sources, it is actually pragmatically better for us to keep to our position independent of the courts

Rob Lemkin: Having said that the film will most likely be used as a public domain item as evidence.

Thet Sambath: I think the film is already justice for the people, for Cambodian victims amd for the Cambodian people. We made this film for the people and the world. Our film is looking for justice for the people. Our work to find justice is in a peaceful way.

Thet Sambath: The court is doing a good job. But I don't think the court can find out the truth and justice for the people becasue KR history is very complicated if just bringing just a few KR leaders, and there are many people involved, making decisions to kill people. These people are also responsible.

Thet Sambath: With the court's research on KR history, they will find these men and women wrong. But it is not reaching deep enough into the KR history, which affects and involves so many more people.

POV: We're talking with Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, co-directors of Enemies of the People. To our late additions, welcome! We're seeing all of your questions and comments and we'll get to as many as we can in the 20 or so minutes we have left with the filmmakers.

POV: A lot of our viewers are asking about how the two of you met and came to make Enemies of the People.

Comment From Ryan Wright
Rob- How did you get involved with the project? and when/ how did you come to meet Thet?

Comment From Susan
Rob and Thet, how did you two meet and decide to do this film?

Comment From Rita
It was such a brave thing you have done to spend your time making this. Have you found any healing yourself from this project and how did you two meet?

Rob Lemkin: I went to Phnom Penh in September 2006 to start my own film about the KR in advance of the trials. Sambath was my translator / researcher when we went to see Nuon Chea. He said nothing but I realised the two had an amazing relationship and on the way back Sambath told me of his project, then about 7 years old.

Rob Lemkin: So then we decided to join forces and bring our separate skills to a joint film project which we both own and creatively control.

Rob Lemkin: We worked for 3 more years making the film

Thet Sambath: @Rita as for the healing process: Since the research finished, and after finding the KR living secretly, people involved in the killing and making these decisions, it made me feel more at peace, because I understood it then.

Comment From Tim
Suon seemed pretty hopeless when we last saw him in the film. Did remembering his past seem therapeutic when you talked to him, or was he completely bogged down?

Thet Sambath: to clarify, by "living secretly", I mean former perpetrators and cadres who've begun new lives in the post KR era.

Thet Sambath: Suon's speaking out did seem to give him a sense of relief. He held that secret for years and years. It was like his confession, and an apology to victims. Now he feels peace, after expressing himself and after meeting Nuon Chea.

Rob Lemkin: In the film, Suon says he wants it shown all over so killers comes out and confess for the next generation. We held an historic reconciliation videoconference with Cambodians - survivors of the Killing Fields - in Long Beach and Suon and Khoun in Asia in which they talked for 3 hours about the past and the future. So Suon feels this project has hope in itself.

POV: We have a comment first, then a question from Mary:

POV: Larry U: I was surprised to learn the cause of the massacre was to rid the country of pro-Vietnam and those of ethnic Vietnamese background. The film brought a greater understanding of history during this period.

Comment From Mary
Thet, over the long course of making this film have you changed your views about the ways in which a country can move forward following genocide?

Thet Sambath: After I learned of these KR secrets, their history, I think the film can explain to the next generation how to move forward, and also how to avoid violence again. I think the body of work is important not only for truth, but for reconciliation.

Rob Lemkin: If a space can be opened up where perpetrators can confess and apologise and their actions be recognised by the greater society it will be extremely positive. It's important to remember that perpetrators are often victims too - literally, they may lose their family and friends but also because they live with the secret trauma of their atrocities.

Comment From Mark
Thet, your dedication to this project is truly inspiring. It must have been difficult to make the sacrifices you made (to tell your wife you didn't have money for food, etc). Once your family saw the film, did they understand why you had done what you did? What were their thoughts about it?

Thet Sambath: Until now, I haven't discussed the film with them. Not my wife, children. They never asked me. That was for their safety. Even my neighbors. Every time I left the house, I never told anyone here.

Thet Sambath: They''re happy about the work that's completed, and forthcoming, but they still do not understand fully the Khmer Rouge, and what we've found.

Thet Sambath: And actually, they don't know that it's showing overseas or anything. I don't want them to worry or be stressed about my security.

POV: We have a few more comments coming in from our Facebook page (http://facebook.com/povdocs):

POV: Benjamin Buhay: The country's history hit me hard when visiting last year. Where are the old/elderly people? GREAT film and important viewing. I still wonder why humanity hasn't learned from events like this. It continues to this day…

POV: Samnang Barry: Enemies of the People was a great documentary that sought out the truth behind the act of conducting genocide in Cambodia, interviewing those most directly responsible in an extremely intimate way. It also displayed the desire for both the ...victims and the culprits to tell their stories, showing that truth panels might have been a more appropriate remedy in seeking justice in Cambodia. Thet Sambath did a tremendous job throughout his investigation, maintaining his composure and perspective on the greater goal of accumulating as much information as possible, an amazing feat considering the extent to which he has suffered under the Khmer Rouge.

Comment From Lori Halverson-Wente
I want to tell you that both of you have changed so many lives! I teach a travel-study class that traveled to Cambodia last winter break. Rob, we met you at the University of MN and you suggested we contact you Sambath -- we did! We did meet up with you Sambath in Cambodia with our Cambodian college students and activists - we all were so inspired. I want you to know many of the Cambodian young people did not know -- our time together was so meaningful. I hope others will do this - combine audiences - Lori Halverson-Wente

POV: And one more comment:

POV: Marybeth Mank: WOW! Mind-blowing and extremely thought-provoking episode. Not sure I could be as equanimous as Sambath, though...I remember seeing the images on WFAA/Channel 8 here in Dallas-very chilling and disturbing...even though I was a kid, it made a lasting impression that has never gone away. Too bad history keeps repeating itself... Thank you for the broadcast, though...stuff like this should NEVER be forgotten…

POV: We have just a few minutes left, so get your last questions and comments in!

Comment From Amy S
Thet- are you still in contact with brother 2? whats your relationship now?

Thet Sambath: I'm still in contact with Nuon Chea. Last week, I received a message through another that he wanted to meet me, and that he missed me. We're not sure how that can happen, with the trial under way.

Comment From Rich
What are your hopes for the trials of Khmer Rouge leaders that going on now in Cambodia? Do you think they will succeed in addressing current issues like impunity there?

Thet Sambath: I don't think that the tribunal can find the truth and justice for the Cambodian people. The history is very secretive and complicated. That's why we have the second film, to explain the what and who are behind the starvation and killing of the people. Many people are involved, not just those indicted or suspects under investigation. People everywhere, including in the government now.

Thet Sambath: As for impunity, and the culture here now, top government officials -- and another important figure -- were summoned to testify. That never happened. Some people are untouchable.

Rob Lemkin: There is huge amount still to come out on the secret history of the Killing Fields. Even though the trial is the biggest since Nuremberg it is quite possible it will not uncover much new information. That must come from other processes - our film, we hope, being just one among them.

We have vast amounts more material which we are putting into DVD extras (out in October) and also a second film called "Suspicious Minds" (out next year) which is about the political conflict inside the KR which drove the violence . This will really explain why the history took the appalling turn it did.

POV: Thet, you just mentioned your next film, and many of our viewers have been asking about it throughout the chat.

Comment From Amanda
What's the second film?

Comment From Hermann
Can you talk more about the second film you're making?

Thet Sambath: The second film has some KR cadres who were not in the first film. These people are deeply involved with Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, ex-supporters of Pol Pot

Rob Lemkin: It's made up of the 200 hours of film and 1000+ hours of audio that Sambath and I have. It will be more like a political conspiracy thriller as it focusses on the details of the anti-Pol Pot resistance and exactly how the violence unfolded across the country month by month. It has the same characters in it plus some more that we filmed earlier. We are working on it now and hope to finish next year.

Thet Sambath: people in the countryside who implemented policies and investigations

Comment From Verna Ung
I would like to thank Thet Sambath for embarking upon this project. My mom survived the Khmer Rouge. Her father, mother, and brother died, but she as well as her 3 other brothers survived. She's always told me her story but I never truly understood what she went through. She watched the movie last night with me, and I was very glad she did. I wanted to let her know that the story was being told because it seems like a lot of people don't know or understand the magnitude of horror that happened during the Khmer Rouge. Thank you very much, Sambath.

Comment From Rich
Thank you both for a exceptional and enlightening film!

POV: Thank you for talking with us this morning, Rob and Sambath. From other ends of the world!

Thet Sambath: Thank you for having us.

Rob Lemkin: Thank you all very much and goodbye from Oxford (England)

POV: If we didn't get a chance to ask your question or post your comment for Rob Lemkin or Thet Sambath, the conversation continues at POV's companion site for Enemies of the People at http://www.pbs.org/pov/enemies and you can also stay in touch with Rob and the film on http://enemiesofthepeoplemovie.com.

POV: You can also rewatch the film for a limited time online at http://www.pbs.org/pov/enemies/full.php.

POV: Our next filmmaker chat will be in two weeks for Mugabe and the White African. We'll be joined by co-director Lucy Bailey and Zimbabwean farmer Ben Freeth. Sign up for a chat reminder here: http://www.pbs.org/pov/mugabe/chat.php

Thet Sambath: Thank you all, also for your comments.

POV: And you can also keep up with Enemies of the People on Facebook:

POV: http://www.facebook.com/enemiesofthepeople

POV: Bye!





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Some may say no good can come from talking to killers and dwelling on past horror, but I say these people have sacrificed a lot to tell the truth. In daring to confess, they have done good, perhaps the only good thing left.”

— Thet Sambath, Director/Producer

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