The Missing Picture (12A) ***
Arriving on the tail of The Act of Killing, here’s another documentary that uses strikingly unconventional methods to bring its audience closer to the everyday horrors of genocide. Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh has here deployed stubby, hand-turned clay figurines to illustrate scenes from the personal testimonies of those sent to work in labour camps under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. Anyone anticipating an Aardmanisation of history should think again, though: these variously fragile, weary and haunted-looking avatars seem more likely to suffer cut throats than close shaves.
Panh scarcely develops his argument, and perhaps doesn’t need to: that the KR were murderous brutes engaged in a rigid form of social moulding becomes apparent very early on. Instead, each bleak tableau either underlines the thesis, or stands as witness to some long-obscured atrocities. Granted, this is hardly the jolliest way to see in the New Year, but it functions as a considerable educational tool: providing a sharp analysis of the gap between KR PR and Cambodian reality, while literally remodelling the past – the better to represent all those Pot and his ilk tried to grind into the soil from which Panh’s golems have sprung.
The Missing Picture opens in selected cinemas from today.