S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
S21 DVD cover.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byRithy Panh
Produced byCati Couteau
Dana Hastier
Aline Sasson
Liane Willemont
Written byRithy Panh
StarringChum Mey
Vann Nath
Music byMarc Marder
CinematographyPrum Mesa
Rithy Panh
Edited byIsabelle Roudy
Marie-Christine Rougerie
Distributed byInstitut national de l'audiovisuel
First Run Features
Release date
  • 17 May 2003 (2003-05-17) (France)
Running time
101 minutes

S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (French: S-21, la machine de mort Khmère rouge) is a 2003 documentary film directed by Rithy Panh. Rithy, himself a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, brought together two former prisoners of the regime with their former captors at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former Security Prison 21 (S-21) under the Khmer Rouge.


Vann Nath and Chum Mey, two survivors of the Khmer Rouge's Tuol Sleng Prison, are reunited and revisit the former prison, now a museum in Phnom Penh. They meet their former captors – guards, interrogators, a doctor and a photographer – many of whom were barely teenagers during the Khmer Rouge era from 1975 to 1979. Their appearances are in stark contrast to the two former prisoners, who are both elderly men. Vann Nath, who was made to paint portraits of prisoners, has a full head of white hair.

The guards and interrogators give a tour of the museum, re-enacting their treatment of the prisoners and daily regimens. They look over the prison's detailed records, including photographs, to refresh their memories.

At one point, Vann Nath directly confronts his former captors about their actions, but they counter that they themselves were also victims, being little more than children at the time, and hold themselves blameless.


  • Khieu 'Poev' Ches (Guard)
  • Yeay Cheu (Him Houy's mother)
  • Nhiem Ein (Photographer)
  • Houy Him (Security deputy)
  • Ta Him (Him Houy's Father)
  • Nhieb Ho (Guard)
  • Prakk Kahn (the Torturer)
  • Peng Kry (Driver)
  • Som Meth (Guard)
  • Chum Mey (Survivor)
  • Vann Nath (Survivor)
  • Top Pheap (Interrogator & Typist)
  • Tcheam Seur (Guard)
  • Mak Thim (S21 Doctor)
  • Sours Thi (Head of Registers)


S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine premiered at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival,[1] where it won the Prix François Chalais. It was also screened at several other film festivals, including the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival (its North American premiere), the New York Film Festival and the Vancouver International Film Festival. It won for best documentary at the Chicago International Film Festival, the European Film Awards and the Valladolid International Film Festival; humanitarian award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the FIPRESCI Prize at the Dok Leipzig, a special jury prize at the Copenhagen International Film Festival, and runner-up at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival.

In Cambodia, the film was a catalyst for confession about the Cambodian Civil War. Former Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan saw the film and was moved to admit the existence of the prison after years of publicly denying it.[2]


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  2. ^ Turnbull, Robert (2007-04-05). "Staring down the horrors of the Khmer Rouge". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-08.

External links[edit]