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Khmer Rouge film spurs Cambodians worldwide to revisit buried history

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While a United Nations-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal lumbers forward in Cambodia with mixed success in engaging with ordinary Cambodians, the highly acclaimed documentary is galvanizing diaspora worldwide to reexamine their country's history and to rethink how to bring reconciliation to the war-torn nation.

Maybe it will come with the tribunal. But maybe, as the film shows, a measure of reconciliation can also come through dialogue and confession.

“I don’t see it as a film. I see it as an important document,” says Prach Ly, a Cambodian rapper from Long Beach, Calif., who attended the Lowell premier and is promoting the film. “The film is showing and giving knowledge.”

The Cambodian government, which has an antagonistic relationship with the tribunal and only allowed the Khmer Rouge history to be taught in schools starting in 2009, has refused to grant the film a license – ostensibly because it lacks Khmer subtitles, but possibly because it implies that Khmer Rouge defectors who today hold government positions could be implicated.

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