Khmer Rouge Killers Break Silence

Documentary Enemies of the People Depicts Cambodian Genocide, Wins Film Fest’s Social Justice Award

Telling the story of one of the most lethal massacres of the 20th century, Enemies of the People won one of the most prestigious awards at the 2010 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

On February 14, with the sun shining through the Reagan Room windows at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort, the documentary received the Social Justice Award, an award presented every year since 2000 by The Fund for Santa Barbara, a nonprofit foundation that supports political change.

The film tells the true story — from the point of view of the killers, no less — of the Khmer Rouge, a brutal Cambodian regime circa 1975 that was responsible for a ruthless genocide, massacring all those deemed by the totalitarian government as “enemies of the people.”

Together, director Rob Lemkin and investigative reporter Thet Sambath — whose family was killed in the genocide — depict the devastation, having the killers break their silence for the first time in three decades.

The film, which was one of 10 other Social Justice Award contenders, was awarded based on seven sets of criteria, all of which were weighed by a knowledgeable panel of jurors. According to The Fund for Santa Barbara Executive Director Geoff Green, the criteria included the film’s ability to identify its issue, to educate its audience about the issue, to inspire the audience, and to resonate with current events.

The Social Justice Award, which was presented by Green, comes not only with honor, but also a $2,500 reward. Although unable to attend the awards ceremony, Lemkin and Sambath were praised. “This award is to recognize filmmakers who take on critical issues,” Green said.

The Fund for Santa Barbara will be hosting one more screening of Enemies of the People on February 20 at 4 p.m. at the Riviera Theatre.

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