THE KILLING FIELDS (1984)

Key Passages

-- approximate times given are marked from the beginning of the film not the video tape --

0:00:29  Introduction to Cambodia
Sydney Schanberg:  Cambodia.  To many Westerners, it seemed a paradise.  Another world, a secret world.  But the war in neighboring Vietnam burst its borders, and the fighting soon spread to neutral Cambodia.  In 1973, I went to cover this side-show struggle as foreign correspondent of the New York Times.  It was there, in the war-torn countryside amidst the fighting between government troops and the Khmer Rouge guerillas, that I met my guide and interpreter, Dith Pran.  A man who was to change my life in a country that I grew to love and pity.

0:09:18  Inquisition on the bombing of Neak Luong
Schanberg:  And now my sources tell me that thereís a rumor that the United States Air Force dropped a bomb or several bombs on the city of Neak Luong.
Military Attaché:  Come on, Schanberg.  Thatís a rumor.  Now Iím not gonna comment on a
rumor.
Schanberg:  I donít understand you.  I just want to know if that was the reason my airplane was delayed?
Military Attaché:  No comment.
Schanberg:  How many killed?  How many wounded?  Thank you for your cooperation, Major Reeves.

0:12:03  Information on the bombing of Neak Luong
Bob:  Alright, youíve heard of pilot error?  Computer malfunction?  They screwed up the coordinates.  A single B-52 dropped its entire load on Neak Luong.  There was a homing beacon in the middle of the town.
Schanberg:  How many casualties?
Bob:  Youíll be briefed on that tomorrow.  We estimate 55 military, something like 35 civilians.
Schanberg:  How many, Bob?
Bob:  I hear itís in the hundreds.  And donít quote me on that.

0:21:56  Schanberg reporting on Neak Luong
Schanberg:  They brought in the whole fucking press corps.  They want to sanitize the story.  Bastards!

0:23:03  Schanberg explains the importance of exposing the bombing of Neak Luong
Military Attaché:  No, Schanberg.  You came on a boat.  You go back on a boat!
Schanberg:  That wonít stop my story!  (To Bob) What the hell is this?
Bob:  Now listen, Sydney, if you werenít down here, I wouldnít be down here.  And I donít want to be down here.  What good is it doing?
Schanberg:  Because if anybody ever gets to read about this, you wonít be able to look them in the face.

0:24:30  Pran expresses fears of Cambodiaís future; Schanberg ignores fears
Pran:  Sydney, my wife is very worried.  She thinks all foreign journalists are going to leave Cambodia.
Schanberg:  Well, Pran, I guess Iíd feel kind of stupid trying to cover this war from a desk in Bangkok.
Pran:  She said, if the war keeps going like this the future could be very bad.
Schanberg:  What do you think?
Pran:  I donít know.
Schanberg:  I donít know either.

0:32:45  Schanberg learns that U.S. plans to evacuate Cambodia
Schanberg:  What about the airlift?
Bob:  Weíre taking it with us.
Schanberg:  That means a lot of people are going to starve to death.
Bob:  I know, Syd, but what could we do?  Look, there could be a bloodbath here.  Look, excuse the pun, but we are either staying or weíre living.

0:34:51  Pran decides to stay in Cambodia
Schanberg:  I was over at the American Embassy yesterday.
Pran:  Good news?
Schanberg:  No, not good news.  They say that when this place goes up Ö they think that a lot of people are gonna get killed.  A lot of people.  Alright, Iíve arranged for the evacuation of you and your family.  So now itís up to you.  What do you want to do?  Do you want to stay or do you want to leave?
Pran:  And how about you?
Schanberg:  Thatís none of your business.  Do you want to stay or do you want to leave?
Pran:  I know you love my family.  But me, Iím reporter too, Sydney.  You know what I mean.

0:45:10  The United States has left Cambodia
John Swain:  If the going gets rough, I heard our best betís the French Embassy.
Schanberg:  Who told you that?
Swain:  The British Embassy.

0:49:25  Cambodia hospital
Dr. Sundesval:  Weíve got plenty of blood here, gentlemen.  Plenty of blood.  Problem is its all in the wrong fucking place!

1:05:31  Cambodian official is taken by Khmer Rouge
Observer:  Adieu, líancien regime.  (Goodbye, old regime)

1:07:05  Cambodians must leave the French Embassy
Swain:  Sydney, the Cambodians have to leave the embassy.  They want all our passports and everybody downstairs Ö and the Cambodians out.

1:11:00  Rockoff and Swain plan to make Pran a fake passport
Al Rockoff:  Syd, I have got the camera, I have got the film, and I have got a fucking darkroom!

1:18:19  The plan fails
Pran:  Sydney Ė Ankertill Brewer!
Schanberg:  (sadly shakes head)

1:20:41  Schanberg is criticized for allowing Pran to be surrendered to the Khmer Rouge
Morgan:  For Christ sake, Sydney, why didnít you get him out when you had the chance?  You had no right to keep him here.  You have a funny sense of priorities.
Pran:  Iím reporter too, Morgan.  I know his heart.  I love him like my brother.  And I would do anything for him.  Anything.

1:21:27  Pran says goodbye
Pran: (voice-over to Schanberg)  Tell my wife I love her, and look after all my children.  She doesnít speak any English, Sydney.  Please Ö I donít want anyone to be bad to my wife.

1:32:26  Pranís first letter to Schanberg:  Description of the Angka party
Pran: (voice-over to Schanberg)  Sydney, I think of you often, and of my family.  They tell us that God is dead and now the party they call the Angka will provide everything for us.  He says, Angka has identified and proclaims the existence of a bad new disease Ė a memory sickness Ė diagnosed as thinking too much about life in pre-Revolutionary Cambodia.  He says, we are surrounded by enemies.  The enemy is inside us.  No one can be trusted.  (pause) 1:33:18  We must be like the ox and have no thought except for the party.  No love, but for the Angka.  (pause) 1:33:33  People starve, but we must not grow food.  We must honor the comrade children whose minds are not corrupted by the past.

1:34:41 Pranís first letter to Schanberg, continued/new scene
Pran: (voice-over)  Sydney, Angka says that those who were guilty of soft living in the years of the great struggle and did not care for the sufferings of the peasant must confess because now is the year zero and everything is to start anew.  (pause) 1:35:10  Iím full of fear, Sydney.  I must show no understanding, not of French or English.  I must have no past, Sydney.  This is the year zero, and nothing has gone before.

1:35:40  Pranís first letter to Schanberg, continued/new scene
Pran:  (voice-over)  The wind whispers of fear and hate.  The war has killed love, Sydney.  And those who confess to the Angka vanish, and no one dares ask where they go.  Here, only the silent survive.

1:47:18  Schanbergís acceptance speech
Schanberg:  Anyone who knows my work will know that half of this belongs to Dith Pran.  Without Pran I wouldnít have been able to file half the stories that I did.  Itís nice to congratulate ourselves on occasions like this, but I canít stand here tonight without thinking of those innocent people Pran dedicated himself to helping me bring to the notice of the American public.  As they pondered their options in the White House, the men who decided to bomb and then to invade Cambodia concerned themselves with many things.  Great power conflicts and collapsing dominoes Ö looking tough and dangerous to the North Vietnamese Ö relieving pressure on the American troop withdrawal from the South.  They had domestic concerns as well, which helps to explain why they kept the bombing of Cambodia a secret for as long as they could.  And they assumed not to have ignored self-interest in their own careers.  What they specifically were not concerned with were the Cambodians themselves.  Not the people Ö not the society Ö not the country Ö except in the abstract as instruments of policy.  Dith Pran and I tried to record and bring home here the concrete consequences of these decisions to real people Ö to human beings.  The people who were left out of the administrations plans but who paid the price and took the beating for them.Iím very pleased to accept this on behalf of Dith Pran and myself.  Iím very honored, and I know that Pran would be very proud.

1:50:29   Rockoff confronts Schanberg about his responsibility for Pranís situation
Rockoff:  You know what bothers me?
Schanberg:  What?
Rockoff:  It bothers me that you let Pran stay in Cambodia because you wanted to win that fucking award, and you knew that you needed him to do it.
Schanberg:  I didnít have any idea what was gonna Ö
Rockoff:  The fuck you didnít, the fuck you didnít.
Schanberg:  I did everything I could, and I am doing everything that I can.
Rockoff:  Well, anyway itís nice to see you.  Iím on my way to Florida Ė
Schanberg:  Iím telling you, Iím doing everything I can.
Rockoff:  Yeah, Iím sure you are.  I didnít realize youíd been there to see him.
Schanberg:  Donít play games with me, Al.  Donít play stupid games.  Nobody gets to go in there.  If I thought I could, I would.  Iíve sent out hundreds of photographs.  Every relief organization on the Thai-Kampuchean borderís got his Ö has got his picture.  If I saw one glimmer of hope, Iíd go.  Iíd go today.

1:51:52  News reporters question Schanbergís culpability in Pranís predicament
Reporter:  How do you respond to the accusations that you and other journalists underestimated the brutality of the Khmer Rouge and so share responsibility for what happened in Cambodia afterwards?
Schanberg:  We made a mistake.  Maybe what we underestimated was the kind of insanity that seven billion dollars worth of bombing could produce.

1:52:44  Schanberg reveals his guilt to his sister
Schanberg:  I must have sent five hundred letters.  I wrote the International Red Cross, the World Health Organization.
Sister:  I know you did, Syd.  You told me.
Schanberg:  I donít know who I didnít write to.  I never really gave him any choice.  One time he tried to discuss leaving.  I talked to him about it, but we never really discussed it.  I discussed it with Swain and Rockoff, but I never discussed it with him.  He stayed because I wanted him to stay.  And I stayed because Ö

1:57:48  Pranís second letter to Schanberg:  Inner workings of the Khmer Rouge
Pran:  Iím trapped, Sydney.  I know he suspects me, and yet he treats me well.  There are many different groups over here, Sydney.  I must take much care.  Now, Angka says we have new enemies.  They say we must regain our old lands from the Vietnamese.  And now, they say, we must fight them.  I miss you, my wife, my children, and my heart longs for news of you.

1:59:34  Phat explains inner-struggles of the Khmer Rouge to Pran
Phat:  You know I love this country.  I sacrificed everything for it.  My wife died for the revolution.  But the leaders of Angka no longer trust people.  Therefore, I can no longer trust them, and they donít trust me.  I fear, really fear, for the future.  I think you love my son.  For his sake Ö look after him.

2:00:26  Pranís third letter to Schanberg: Cambodian/Vietnamese conflict
Pran:  The fighting is close by, Sydney.  If the Vietnamese get here, Angka will destroy everything, and the Vietnamese will only find ashes.

2:15:19  Pran and Schanbergís reunion/ Schanbergís absolved from guilt
Pran:  How you been?
Schanberg:  Do you forgive me?
Pran:  Nothing to forgive, Sydney, nothing.

2:16:07  Final words on Schanberg and Pran and Cambodia
Dith Pran returned, with Sydney Schanberg, to America to be reunited with his family.
He now works as a photographer for the New York Times where Sydney is a columnist.

Cambodiaís torment has not yet ended.  The refugee camps on the Thai border are still crowded with the children of the killing fields.
 
 

Copyright (c) 1999 by Wendy Elizabeth Kuhn, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.

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