Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shown The Gate

A still from The Gate with Raphaël Personnaez (left) and Phoeung Kompheak
Making its film festival debut this month at both Telluride FF and Toronto IFF, Regis Wargnier's The Gate, titled Le temps des aveux in French, has received warm consideration from the critics I've read so far. Based on the memoirs of Francois Bizot, it tells the story of his arrest by none other than Comrade Duch before he became commandant of S-21 in Phnom Penh (and oversaw the death of over 18,000 prisoners), and the battle of wits between Bizot and Duch, which ultimately led to Bizot's release. Bizot is played by French actor Raphaël Personnaez, while the task of mastering the complexities of Duch was given to Khmer actor Phoeung Kompheak, who by all accounts steals the show. Angkor gets in on the act though much of the film was shot in Battambang early last year, with extras aplenty from the expat community there and in Phnom Penh. It's 21 years since Wargnier won the the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film with Indochine, a film set in the French colony of Indochina. Rithy Panh get a nod as producer and his Bophana Productions were also involved. I believe it will be shown at the Cambodia International Film Festival which is set for early December.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Andy -
I've been following your blog and reading your Cambodian Tales from many years back. Am planning a first foray into Cambodia this coming winter, but I'm writing to let you know that I saw this evening the movie "The Gate", which was shown at a film festival here in Montreal (Canada). It is an amazing movie, extremely well acted by both main actors and all supporting cast. It is actually quite an intimate movie, since most of the scenes involve the two main protagonists. Whereas "Indochine", the most famous movie directed by Regis Wargnier, featured large scale events, here everything is muted and smaller scale. The Khmer Rouge camp where Bizot was held is presented as a small, hidden encampment, next to angkorian ruins that hide the Khmer Rouge's deadly secrets. The cruelty of the Khmer Rouge is not shown in a graphic fashion, but rather alluded to in a number of wordless scenes. The dehumanization of Cambodian society is also illustrated in the way that the KR justify everything in the name of revolution. The fall of Phnom Penh is shown after the fact, once the city is already emptied, and the action takes place almost exclusively at the French Embassy (filmed at the governor's mansion in Battambang). The final segment of the movie features the face-to-face meeting of Duch and Bizot, years later, before the former faced the tribunal in Cambodia. It concludes the movie on a very troubling note, as it remains terrifying to see the extent to which evil and cruelty can coexist in an individual with banality and outward courtesy. All in all, an extremely fascinating movie, but a much more intimate cinematic experience than "The Killing Fields". All the best, and thank you again so much for this blog, which allows all of us around the world to dream of Cambodia through your experiences.

November 12, 2014 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

nice review, thanks very much.
have a fabulous time visiting Cambodia.
and thanks for your kind comments. also look out for The Last Reel too, another intriguing film focusing on Cambodia.

November 15, 2014 at 1:13 AM  

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