Doc Corner: Rithy Panh’s ‘Graves Without a Name’

It is not very often an autobiographical documentary about genocide is selected to open a prestigious strand of one of the biggest film festivals in the world. I suppose that’s what being the first filmmaker to, among other things, land an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film with a work of non-fiction does to one’s reputation. Director Rithy Panh has forged his career through telling the stories of his Cambodian homeland and it’s a testament that despite what may be considered tunnel vision for other filmmakers, this is his 18th feature, he continues to find new and interesting angles to investigate.

After detours through a colonial archival scrap-book in France is Our Mother Country and meditative stargazing experimental curiosity Exile, Panh has returned to the more earthbound terrain of his Oscar-nominated The Missing Picture (my no. 1 documentary of the decade). A film as rooted in the mud and the dirt that built that film its signature image of gaunt and decaying figurines, Graves finds Panh on an even more personal mission than that film…

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