Pol Pot – Timewatch BBC – and Rithy Panh

A small intro to our foreign readers: The Danish DR/TV has always been the flagship when it comes to documentaries on television in Denmark. It might paradoxically enough continue to be so!

The paradox is that a move to new premises, including the building of a concert house, has resulted in a drastic cut down in staff and money, due to a catastrophic budgetary mismanagement from the public service broadcaster. Less funding for local production gives more foreign purchases and re-runs, and the shelves are full of buys of good documentaries!

One of them is a BBC production from 2005 from the renowned history strand Timewatch, whose editor is John Farren. It is about Pol Pot, the man behind the Cambodian genocide in the late 70’es. The documentary gives us the story of the man behind the genocide – without having more than a couple of sequences with the man himself. The director, Andrew Williams, has therefore chosen to reconstruct some of the scenes as they were told to be by people who worked with Pol Pot in the Khmer Rouge. Very much is based on quotes from interviews with Pol Pot. It is all very nice, the archive is used cleverly, and the research is as we expect from a BBC production, but… it has also this distance and lack of passion of a non-involved producer and director.

For those who want to know more about Cambodia, there is one director to be mentioned: Rithy Panh, Cambodian, born in 1964, escaped the country to settle in Paris making several strong and passionate documentaries and dramas about his own country. The one that comes closest to describing the terror during the Pol Pot regime is “S21” that can be bought on dvd at http://www.editionsmontparnasse.fr/dvd

Watched on DR2 2008-01-04.

Pol Pot, BBC, 2005, Andrew Williams.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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