|The Killing Fields|
|Directed by||Roland Joffé|
|Screenplay by||Bruce Robinson|
|Based on||The Death and Life of Dith Pran|
by Sydney Schanberg
|Edited by||Jim Clark|
|Music by||Mike Oldfield|
|Distributed by||Columbia-EMI-Warner Distributors|
|Box office||$34.7 million|
The Killing Fields is a 1984 British biographical drama film about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which is based on the experiences of two journalists: Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg. It was directed by Roland Joffé and produced by David Puttnam for his company Goldcrest Films. Sam Waterston stars as Schanberg, Haing S. Ngor as Pran, Julian Sands as Jon Swain, and John Malkovich as Al Rockoff. The adaptation for the screen was written by Bruce Robinson; the musical score was written by Mike Oldfield and orchestrated by David Bedford.
The film was a success at the box office and an instant hit with critics. At the 57th Academy Awards it received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture; it won three, most notably Best Supporting Actor for Haing S. Ngor, who had no previous acting experience, as well as Best Cinematography and Best Editing. At the 38th British Academy Film Awards, it won eight BAFTAs, including Best Film and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Ngor.
In 1999 the British Film Institute voted The Killing Fields the 100th greatest British film of the 20th century. In 2016 British film magazine Empire ranked it number 86 in their list of the 100 best British films.
In 1973 Phnom Penh, the Cambodian national army wages a civil war with the communist Khmer Rouge group. Dith Pran, a Cambodian journalist and interpreter for The New York Times , awaits the arrival of reporter Sydney Schanberg at the city's airport, but leaves suddenly. Schanberg takes a cab to his hotel where he meets up with photographer Al Rockoff. Pran meets Schanberg later and tells him that an American B-52 has allegedly bombed Neak Leung. After Schanberg and Pran go to the town and confirm the allegation, they are arrested when they try to photograph the execution of two Khmer Rouge operatives. They are eventually released and Schanberg is furious when the international press corps arrives with the U.S. Army.
Two years later, in 1975, the Phnom Penh embassies are evacuated in anticipation of the Khmer Rouge's arrival. Schanberg secures evacuation for Pran's family, but Pran insists on staying behind to help Schanberg. The Khmer Rouge move into the capital, ostensibly in peace. During a parade through the city, Schanberg and Rockoff are met by a detachment of the Khmer Rouge, who immediately arrest them. The group is taken to a back alley where prisoners are being held and executed. Pran, unharmed because he is a Cambodian civilian, negotiates to spare his friends' lives, and the group retreats to the French embassy. The Khmer Rouge orders all Cambodian citizens in the embassy to be handed over, to which the fearful ambassador complies. Knowing that Pran will be imprisoned or killed, Rockoff and fellow photographer Jon Swain try to forge a British passport for Pran, but the deception fails when Pran's image on the passport photo disappears, as they lack adequate photographic fixer. Pran is turned over to the Khmer Rouge and forced to live under their totalitarian regime.
Several months after returning to New York City, Schanberg launches a personal campaign to locate Pran; he writes letters to several charities and maintains close contact with Pran's family in San Francisco. In Cambodia, Pran has become a forced labourer under the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" policy, a return to the agrarian ways of the past. Pran is also forced to attend propagandist classes where many undergo re-education. As intellectuals are made to disappear, Pran feigns simple-mindedness. Eventually, he tries to escape and stumbles upon one of the Pol Pot regime's Killing Fields before he is recaptured. In 1976, Schanberg is awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Cambodian conflict, and he tells the audience that half the recognition for the award belongs to Pran. Rockoff confronts Schanberg and harshly accuses him of not doing enough to locate Pran and for using his friend to win the award. Although Schanberg initially defends his efforts, he ultimately admits that Pran stayed because of what Schanberg wanted.
Pran is assigned to the leader of a different prison compound, a man named Phat, and charged mostly with tending to Phat's young son. Pran continues to behave as an uneducated peasant, despite several attempts by Phat to catch him in his deception. Phat begins to trust Pran and asks him to take ward of his son in the event that he is killed. During the Khmer Rouge's border war with Vietnam, Pran discovers that Phat's son has American money and a map leading to safety. When Phat tries to stop the younger Khmer Rouge officers from killing several of his comrades, he is ignominiously shot. In the confusion, Pran escapes with four other prisoners and they begin a long trek through the jungle with Phat's son. The group later splits and three of them head in a different direction; Pran continues following the map with the fourth man. However, Pran's companion activates a hidden land mine while holding the boy. As Pran pleads with the man to give him the boy, the mine goes off, killing the pair. Pran continues through the jungle alone until he eventually finds a Red Cross refugee camp near the border of Thailand. In the United States, Schanberg learns that Pran is alive and safe, and reunites with Pran at the Red Cross camp. Pran assures Schanberg of his forgiveness as the two embrace.
In an interview with The Guardian in November 2014, Joffé said:
David Puttnam asked to see me, which in those days was a bit like being invited out to Hollywood. He gave me Bruce Robinson's script, which was enormous, but it was so full of passion and energy I couldn't put it down. I'd heard about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, but didn't know much until I read it. I wrote to David saying that whoever made the film would have to be careful because it wasn't just a war story: it was about human connection, how friendships are born and what they do to us. I didn't hear from him for six months, then we bumped into one another and he said he'd interviewed most of the directors in the world – including some very big names who would make the studios happy – but no one had really understood it. "You're the only man who has," he said.
In the same interview actor Julian Sands said:
Roland's audition process was extraordinary. I was 24 and I've never come across anything as rigorous since. He was looking to put together a troupe of actors without much film experience, because he wanted the freshness of everything to resonate with us. He would gather lots of us in his office to improvise scenes. After about a month, he had a group he found interesting. John Malkovich, Sam Waterston and Haing S. Ngor weren't subject to that, but their meetings with him were still pretty intense. A lot was made of the fact that Haing hadn't acted before, but John put it differently: he said Haing had been acting his whole life – you had to be a pretty good actor to survive the Khmer Rouge.
Goldcrest Films invested £8,419,000 in the film and received £10,664,000.
The Killing Fields holds a 93% rating at the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 40 reviews, with the consensus; "Artfully composed, powerfully acted, and fueled by a powerful blend of anger and empathy, The Killing Fields is a career-defining triumph for director Roland Joffé and a masterpiece of cinema."Critic Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times : "The film is a masterful achievement on all the technical levels—it does an especially good job of convincing us with its Asian locations—but the best moments are the human ones, the conversations, the exchanges of trust, the waiting around, the sudden fear, the quick bursts of violence, the desperation." John Simon of the National Review wrote- "For all its flaws The Killing Fields is an important, indeed necessary, film".
The film has been criticized by some who lived through the actual events. The real Al Rockoff expressed dissatisfaction at the portrayals of himself and Schanberg,while Denis Cameron sought to have his consultative credit removed upon watching the completed film.
|Academy Awards||Best Picture||David Puttnam||Nominated|
|Best Director||Roland Joffé||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Sam Waterston||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Haing S. Ngor||Won|
|Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium||Bruce Robinson||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Chris Menges||Won|
|Best Film Editing||Jim Clark||Won|
|American Cinema Editors Awards||Best Edited Feature Film||Nominated|
|Boston Society of Film Critics Awards||Best Film||Won|
|Best Actor||Haing S. Ngor||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||John Malkovich (also for Places in the Heart )||Won|
|Best Cinematography||Chris Menges||Won|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Film||David Puttnam||Won|
|Best Direction||Roland Joffé||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Leading Role||Haing S. Ngor||Won|
|Best Screenplay – Adapted||Bruce Robinson||Won|
|Best Cinematography||Chris Menges||Won|
|Best Editing||Jim Clark||Won|
|Best Make Up Artist||Tommie Manderson||Nominated|
|Best Production Design/Art Direction||Roy Walker||Won|
|Best Score||Mike Oldfield||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Ian Fuller, Clive Winter and Bill Rowe||Won|
|Best Special Visual Effects||Fred Cramer||Nominated|
|Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles||Haing S. Ngor||Won|
|British Society of Cinematographers||Best Cinematography||Chris Menges||Won|
|César Awards||Best Foreign Film||Roland Joffé||Nominated|
|David di Donatello Awards||Best Foreign Film||Nominated|
|Best Foreign Director||Nominated|
|Best Foreign Producer||David Puttnam||Won|
|Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures||Roland Joffé||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Motion Picture – Drama||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama||Sam Waterston||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture||Haing S. Ngor||Won|
|Best Director – Motion Picture||Roland Joffé||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay – Motion Picture||Bruce Robinson||Nominated|
|Best Original Score – Motion Picture||Mike Oldfield||Nominated|
|Guild of German Art House Cinemas Awards||Best Foreign Film||Roland Joffé||Won|
|Japan Academy Film Prize||Outstanding Foreign Language Film||Nominated|
|London Critics Circle Film Awards||Director of the Year||Roland Joffé||Won|
|Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards||Best Supporting Actor||John Malkovich (also for Places in the Heart )||Runner-up|
|Best Cinematography||Chris Menges||Won|
|National Board of Review Awards||Top Ten Films||3rd Place|
|National Society of Film Critics Awards||Best Supporting Actor||John Malkovich (also for Places in the Heart )||Won|
|Best Cinematography||Chris Menges (also for Comfort and Joy )||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Film||2nd Place|
|Best Cinematographer||Chris Menges||Won|
|Political Film Society Awards||Special Award||Won|
|Premio Sergio Amidei||Bruce Robinson||Won|
|Writers Guild of America Awards||Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium||Won|
Besides its place as 100th on the BFI Top 100 British films list, The Killing Fields is also 30th on Channel 4's list of the 100 Greatest Tearjerkers,and 60th on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers list.
The Killing Fields was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in Australia in March 2010. The DVD includes special features such as the theatrical trailer, audio commentary with Roland Joffé, an interview with David Puttnam and a BBC documentary titled The Making of The Killing Fields.In April 2013 Umbrella Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray in Australia.
In the UK, the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Optimum Releasing and was released in North America on DVD by Warner Brothers, as part of their Warner Archive Collection.
Haing S. Ngor, who plays Pran, was himself a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime and the labour camps.Prior to the Khmer Rouge's 'Year Zero' he was a doctor based in Phnom Penh. In 1975, Ngor was one of millions who were moved from the city to forced labour camps in the countryside. He spent four years there before fleeing to Thailand.
Haing S. Ngor had never acted before appearing in The Killing Fields. He was spotted by the film's casting director, Pat Golden, at a Cambodian wedding in Los Angeles.
Of his role in the film, he told People magazine in 1985: "I wanted to show the world how deep starvation is in Cambodia, how many people die under Communist regime. My heart is satisfied. I have done something perfect."
Ngor became one of only two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award for acting, the other being Harold Russell ( The Best Years of Our Lives , 1946).
The screenplay is adapted from a Sydney Schanberg story in The New York Times Magazine entitled "The Death and Life of Dith Pran: A Story of Cambodia".
In 1986, actor Spalding Gray, who had a small role in the film as the American consul, created Swimming to Cambodia , a monologue (later filmed by Jonathan Demme) based upon his experiences making The Killing Fields.
A book of the film was written by Christopher Hudson.
Dith Pran was a Cambodian photojournalist. He was a refugee and survivor of the Cambodian genocide and the subject of the film The Killing Fields (1984).
Roland Joffé is a British director and producer of film and television, known for the Academy Award-winning films The Killing Fields and The Mission. He began his career in television, his early credits including episodes of Coronation Street and an adaptation of The Stars Look Down for Granada. He gained a reputation for hard-hitting political stories with the series Bill Brand and factual dramas for Play for Today.
Haing Somnang Ngor was a Cambodian American gynecologist, obstetrician, actor and author. He is best remembered for winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1985 for his debut performance in the film The Killing Fields (1984), in which he portrayed Cambodian journalist and refugee Dith Pran. He was murdered in a robbery outside his home in Los Angeles in 1996.
Takéo is a province (khaet) of Cambodia. Located in the south of Cambodia to the west of Bassac River, Takéo borders the provinces of Kampot to the west, Kampong Speu to the northwest and Kandal to the north and east. Its southern boundary is the international border with Vietnam. The provincial capital, recently known as the provincial town Doun Kaev, is a small city with a population of 39,186.
Sydney Hillel Schanberg was an American journalist who was best known for his coverage of the war in Cambodia. He was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards, and the Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism. Schanberg was portrayed by Sam Waterston in the 1984 film The Killing Fields based on the experiences of Schanberg and the Cambodian journalist Dith Pran in Cambodia.
The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where collectively more than one million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Cambodian Civil War (1970–1975). The mass killings are widely regarded as part of a broad state-sponsored genocide.
The Dângrêk Mountains, also the Dângrêk Range, is a mountain range forming a natural border between Cambodia and Thailand.
The Killing Fields is the 10th record album by Mike Oldfield, released on 26 November 1984 by Virgin Records in the UK. It was the soundtrack album for the British drama film of the same name based on the experiences of two journalists in the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. It is the only full-length film score written by Oldfield.
Lord Jim is a 1965 British adventure film made for Columbia Pictures in Super Panavision. The picture was produced and directed by Richard Brooks with Jules Buck and Peter O'Toole as associate producers, from a screenplay by Brooks. The film stars O'Toole, James Mason, Curd Jürgens, Eli Wallach, Jack Hawkins, Paul Lukas, and Daliah Lavi.
Long Boret was a Cambodian politician who served as the last prime minister of the Khmer Republic from 26 December 1973, to 17 April 1975. Highly regarded for his honesty, he tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a peace settlement with the Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian Civil War. He was later arrested by the Khmer Rouge and executed. He is one of two prime ministers to die in office, the other being Chan Sy.
The 5th Boston Society of Film Critics Awards honored the best filmmaking of 1984. The awards were given on 20 January 1985.
Cinema in Cambodia began in the 1950s, and many films were being screened in theaters throughout the country by the 1960s, which are regarded as the "golden age". After a near-disappearance during the Khmer Rouge regime, competition from video and television has meant that the Cambodian film industry is a small one.
Iain Smith OBE is a Scottish film producer. He is known for his productions of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), The Fountain (2006), Children of Men (2006) and The Fifth Element (1997), among others.
Al Rockoff is an American photojournalist made famous by his coverage of the Vietnam War and of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. He was portrayed in the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields by actor John Malkovich, although he has never been happy with this portrayal. Rockoff was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and is of half Russian and half Irish ancestry. After enlisting in the Navy while under age, he subsequently became an Army photographer in South Vietnam.
The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project is an American non-profit organization, founded in 1994 by Killing Fields survivor Dith Pran to educate the world about the genocide that took place in Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. The organization also keeps photographic records to help Cambodians who are searching for missing family members. Dith Pran headed the organization until his death in 2008, when his widow Kim DePaul assumed that position.
Dave Walker was a Canadian writer, filmmaker and photo-journalist who died under mysterious circumstances in 2014 in Cambodia.
The Embassy of France in Cambodia is the primary diplomatic mission of the French Republic to the Kingdom of Cambodia. It is located in the capital Phnom Penh. It is known for the role it played as a place of refuge for foreigners and at-risk Cambodians after the Khmer Rouge takeover for several days until foreigners were forced to go to Thailand while the regime forced Cambodians to stay in the country.
The Hobart Film Society (HFS) is the oldest continually operating film society in Australia.