Program Detail


Rithy Panh / France / 2011 / 93 min / English, Khmer with English subtitles / Color / Digibeta / USA Premiere


Cambodian director Rithy Panh, a legend in world cinema for such documentaries as S21: Khmer Rouge Killing Machine and Paper Cannot Wrap up Embers, returns to fiction filmmaking in this devastating adaptation of Kenzaburo Oe’s story The Catch (which was also the basis of the 1961 Nagisa Oshima film). The original tale, set during WWII, concerns the relationship between a captured African American pilot in Japan and the village schoolchildren who guard him. Panh updates the tale to Cambodia during the Vietnam War, when violence and war—whether from the West or the Khmer Rouge—were destroying a new generation of youth.

After an American fighter plane is shot down over the jungle, a group of village kids capture the pilot and hand him to the local Khmer Rouge, many of whom aren’t much older than they are. “From now on, Angkar is your only family,” states the Khmer Rouge captain to Pang, the leader of the boys. Falling under the spell of the Khmer Rouge, Pang, an orphan whose father “is a traitor” and mother “is a whore,” soon becomes the main captor of the pilot, and also of the entire village, turning in neighbors and taking the army’s words (“Comrades! Don’t trust your family or friends!”) to heart.

“A boy is never a soldier in the beginning,” writes Panh of this heartbreaking, elemental tale, made in Cambodia, yet unfortunately universal. All it may take is a rifle, a red scarf, and a lifetime surrounded by violence.

-Jason Sanders

Co-presenter: RAMA (3/13, 3/14)


  • Director: Rithy Panh
  • Producer: Catherine Dussart
  • Cinematographer: Prum Mesar
  • Writer: Rithy Panh
  • Editor: Marie-Christine Rougerie, Rithy Panh
  • Cast: Cyril Guei, Chem Chuop, Soeum Chhoeum, Pruoch Chhoeum
  • Sound: Sear Vissal, Myriam Rene


March 13, 2012 6:30 pm
SF Film Society Cinema at New People
Tickets not currently on sale

March 14, 2012 7:00 pm
Pacific Film Archive Theater
Tickets not currently on sale

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