The Killing Fields is the true story of one man’s heroism and the struggle for two men to reunite against the terrifying backdrop of the Khmer Rouge.
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New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston) is sent to Cambodia in 1973 to cover the war between the revolutionary Khmer Rouge and the government.He meets Dith Pran (Cambodian actor Haing S. Ngor in an Academy Award® winning performance): a local journalist who becomes his trusted assistant, interpreter, and friend. When the Khmer Rouge troops enter Phnom Penh in April 1975 and seize control of the country, Pran throws himself at their mercy to save the lives of Schanberg and several other foreign correspondents. What follows for Pran, and for all Cambodians, is unspeakable horror. Whilst Schanberg spends four and a half years seeking news of his friend, nearly half the population of seven million are massacred by the Khmer Rouge or die of starvation and disease.
Produced by legendary British producer Lord David Puttnam, and the debut feature of award-winning director Roland Joffe, “The Killing Fields” is based on the true stories of journalists Schanberg and Pran. Pran survived the Cambodian genocide, and later become a photojournalist with The New York Times. It was he who coined the phrase “the killing fields” to refer to the Khmer Rouge’s sites of mass executions and burials.
Haing S. Ngor, the actor who portrayed Pran, was also a survivor of the genocide. Originally a doctor, he survived by eating insects and scorpions until his escape through Vietnam. After the success of “The Killing Fields”, and becoming only the second non-professional actor to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Ngor made acting his career. In a tragic twist of irony, after surviving the Khmer Rouge, Ngor was shot dead in New York after an apparent mugging. Although it was widely claimed he was killed after refusing to hand over a locket containing a photo of his deceased wife, other theorists also suggested the murder was politically motivated. The truth is unknown.
“The Killing Fields” is one of the greatest war films ever made – a powerful testament to survival and courage against incredible odds, filled with images that are impossible to forget.