Director Rithy Panh was 13 years old in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia into a murderous experiment in ideology. He and his family were sent to starve in a rural re-education work camp. The Missing Picture brilliantly explores Panh’s quest to create the missing images of that period, of his family and the life he recalled, as a celluloid act of remembrance. He comes up with a unique and inventive way to tell his story: he uses hundreds of intricately detailed clay figurines set up in diorama scenes, intercut with what archival propaganda footage he could find, to show what is indelibly recorded in his memory; he creates the missing pictures of what does not exist in any photograph or film. Through this stylized approach, Panh intelligently avoids playing historian and instead offers something far more complicated and valuable than simple documentary. Profoundly moving, uniquely constructed and historically valuable, the film’s impact is mesmerizing and poetic. (Dir. by Rithy Panh, 2013, Cambodia/France, in French with subtitles, 92 mins., Not Rated, Strand Releasing) Digital
About Vicheara Houn
Vicheara was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in the peaceful days before the Khmer Rouge communist rebels engulfed this small Southeast Asian nation in four years of death and destruction. As the only child of a wealthy and politically prominent father, her young life was one of great contrasts. She went to University of Phnom Penh to study pharmacy and met her husband there. Their forbidden romance caused much conflict but eventually they prevailed and married in January,1975 , four months before the Khmer Rouge took over and their lives turned upside down.
All the residents of Phnom Penh, including Vicheara’s entire family, were forced out of their homes and expelled from the city in a mass exodus by the Khmer Rouge rebels. One by one, every member of Vicheara’s family starved to death. Her young husband was murdered.
Emaciated and alone, she managed to survive until 1979 when the Khmer Rouge was defeated by the Vietnamese and the survivors were liberated. Vicheara returned to her paternal home. She finished her pharmacy degree and made a daring escape to a refugee camp in Thailand. There she met the man who would become her second husband and they made their way to the US in 1984, where they had two children, a boy and a girl. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She later divorced and met her current husband in Portland , OR.
Later, they moved to Arizona where Vicheara finished writing this first book, Bamboo Promise, to share her amazing story of survival with the world. She is now working on her 2nd book.