The Missing Picture got nominated for the Oscars, and I might just be able to tell why

When I am sad, I turn to writing because it occupies my brain, allowing me to get lost in the creative verbal journey far cry from all those things heartbreakingly bugging me. Unfortunately, I am sad now for some reasons quite personal. Coincidently, I just watched The Missing Picture, Cambodian Oscar-nominated movie. So, I figure it makes perfect sense to write a review of it, taking advantage of the circumstance. Yet, it at the same time doesn’t make sense to write this review since I have a few academic papers on tight deadlines.

Embrace yourself. You are going into a weird, mentally confusing world of mine should you dare dive deeper into this article.

The Missing Picture got nominated for the Oscars, and I might just be able to tell why. Well, at least, I try to do so for my personal reflection commitment sake. Please hesitate to disagree although I really mean the opposite, and do pray that the buttered popcorn did not sidetrack my concentration during the movie.

Narration-wise, it’s first-person story telling. That is powerfully effective in its own right, especially when everything going into the audience’ ears is first-hand, personal life experience of the one voicing over the microphone. Detailed, specific, personal, relatable, reliable and somewhat entertainingly poetic; probably, the list goes on.

Now, what I like so much about this movie is its rich (not sure if I use the right adjective) coverage of the topic, although the topic is oddly what I don’t like about the movie, too. On my defense, I’m not so keen on more movies talking about the Khmer Rouge, the dark, depressing history of Cambodia. I’ve moved on. Lots of existing Cambodia-in-the-70s movies, anyway. Plus, the country is not just about the Khmer Rouge, so I do hope it’s not the only picture being painted.

Don’t get me wrong when I say the topic turned me off about the movie. It’s completely the other end of the equation when talking about the quality of how the story is told. I love the fact that director Rithy Panh understands everything about the Khmer Rouge so well that his description of it touches most, if not all, areas imagined possible.

On my count, there are pre-1975 lifestyle and mentality, political ideology of Pol Pot, Angkar (organization), how people die, hunger, torture, family suffering situation, children reeducation, dangerous healthcare, injustice and concept of enemy. What’s most impressive is the fact that all of these scenarios are presented in a cohesive and coherent story and reflection of a person experiencing the regime on the ground.

To me, the movie itself is a piece of literature, something that lets viewers take their imagination for a ride. I love that ride. Like reading a novel, I did, while watching the movie, get a chance to learn so much about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge through my horny imaginations triggered by plots and scenes in The Missing Picture. Clearly, it’s beyond just staring at moving images.

Then, there is the art of film making. Wait, I should say the “high art” of film making. Using clay models is, needless to say, out-of-the-box thinking. I praise such thinking. I do. If there is one valuable message from the movie other than anything to do with the depressing Khmer Rouge, it’s the idea that there are a whole lot of possibilities in how movies are made. Rithy Panh just made an innovative contribution to the film industry.

I discussed with one of my academic associates on why The Missing Picture was chosen to air at my university’s cinema, and we sort of boiled down to one conclusion. It was the annual Film Festival at Ohio University. Not only was The Missing Picture nominated for the Oscars, but the use of clay has the artistic values that can inspire film students here. Well, I should try to confirm with the committee on that.

Again, I’m going too long. Let me say one last thing you may not like so much before I wrap this post with a bow. I think the clay is also a reason that costed this movie the (Oscars) Academy Award. I have to admit the movie failed to absorb my full attention. I would have been much more engaged if there had been more thrilling or striking pictures, instead of steady-looking clay models.

Let me know what you think about the movie if you have watched it. If you have not, take my word: Find it.

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  • I’m not a big fan of KR film too, it always make me feel very depressed. But as a curious human being, I really want to see this movie and couldn’t find it. Can you advise how I can have it? FYI, I’m living in PP.