Sunday, October 31, 2010

A certain future in a tropical setting

A certain future in a tropical setting

An assessment on the movies made during the Khmer Rouge era in Cambodia

by Lualhati Madlangawa Guererro

I was watching a series of movies produced during the Khmer Rouge regime, and it mostly depicts a Utopian-like appearance similar to the movies of Eisenstein and Fritz Lang. But then, despite its semi-futuristic appearance, it was more focused on human power, with limited approach to machinery to the point that most of the people, especially in the west would think of it as an anti-modern tendency.

These movies, somehow would also inculcate a view different from what the western media showed about Cambodia then. Despite of the tragedies happened during that time, the Killing Fields, the Famine, and other atrocities happened under the adventurist regime of Pol Pot, Ta Mok et al. the scenes made during at that time shows how Cambodia experimented its own, fusing primitive agrarianism and modern technology in the name of Year Zero, of the Angkar.

This video, made under the ministry of information, showed how the Khmer Rouge experimented the Cambodian society with its own adventurist line. Composed of petit-borugeoisie like Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Ta Mok, and Son Sann, the Khmer Rouge as if wanted to create a "Communist state" directly without any transition at all. Worse, they are creating far from expected.

This movie shows the same as the first movie sets of-using the idea of "reconstruction", Cambodia at that time was as if making its own "from scratch", literally "from scratch" as they mobilized the entire population, pushing them to undergo "Peasantization", and build more reservoirs, irrigation systems, grow rice, build some monumental buildings, yet neglected the entire urban zone as the Khmer Rouge, with its adventurism wanted anything to be "into the soil", "into the roots" like those of the ancient Angkor.

Here, contrary to the countryside-focused scenes shows the production of cotton textiles using the equipment used before the Angkar era. The machines used for producing textiles, and the dying machines depicts the modern machinery being used and its goods usually for exportation.

These movies somehow show the Utopian-like attempts of the Khmer Rouge to create a different Cambodia, from their attempts to infuse the ancient Angkor rice-water idea of progress and modern day machinery, their so-called future in a tropical setting, like those of Fritz Lang and Eisenstein, was somewhat promising. But then, their instances, problems, dogmatism and adventurism, including their killings failed to achieve what their videoes stated. The unsystematized "planning" of their so-called development failed to reach its full capacity due to their inclination: having no primary planning, a transition despite the construction of infrastructure and less approach to basic access to social services. The "peasantization" process was and is, a failure, far from what as expected, far from the pictures shown.

After all,
to them it was all "nothing," like Pol Pot, it is neither gain nor loss to their un-pragmatic dream.