AFRIFF REVIEWS: Angkar

AFRIFF REVIEWS: Angkar

“Angkar made the rules,” says the narrator. “Angkar had eyes everywhere.”

The word “Angkar” is Khmer for The Organisation. And while narrating the documentary that has that word as its title, the narrator tries to define the body known to many citizens of Cambodia.

“Angkar made the rules,” says the narrator. “Angkar had eyes everywhere.”

The Angkar was the Communist Party of Cambodia and was in charge of the country in the mid-1970s. The party itself had as its leader Pol Pot, the man who gave the murderous Khmer Rouge army its power to kill without consequences.

“I don’t want to call them Khmer Rouge. In it there’s the word ‘Khmer’, and folks associate the Khmer people with this murderous regime,” says one of the survivors of those genocidal years interviewed in Neary Adeline Hay’s Angkar. “I prefer to talk about ‘communists’. I prefer to talk about ‘Angkar’.”

In trying to deal with its past, the country has tried to be quiet about the period and the widespread destruction it left in its wake. As with several countries around the world, the concept seems to be that if you ignore a thing, it disappears. But, of course, the trauma lingers—and not only for those who were old enough to grasp the bloody situation; it also gets transmitted within a family and soon younger citizens come to harbour a grudge based on the memories of their elders.

Angkar is a plea against forgetting, as exemplified by a scene towards the end. In it, the camera spans over a number of young bodies engaged in dance as the narrator speaks.

“They know nothing about this story,” says the voice. “They don’t know who their father is, who their mother is, who their grandparents are.

Many people died here at the hands of their parents. It’s as if those 3 years, 8 months and 20 days had never happened, as if I dreamed that horror, as if the dead hadn’t died.”

Retribution might be too far to go, but the documentary insists that the world remembers the dead.

Angkar is showing at the 2019 AFRIFF and is scheduled to screen on Monday, 11th November 2019.
Time: 4PM Screen: Filmhouse Landmark, Screen 5

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