By Chanel Kong
The documentary Comrade Duch: The Bookkeeper of Death examines the life of a gifted Cambodian mathematics teacher turned mass killer — responsible for the torture and murder of 14,000 people — and how he was brought to justice. Filmmaker Adrian Maben offered ITVS some background on the project, which was funded through ITVS International.
How did you come upon working on a project about Comrade Duch?
In 1999 and 2000 I worked with American journalist Nate Thayer on directing a series of films that featured the last interview of Pol Pot, recorded on camera a year before his death. Nate’s interview was a remarkable scoop. For the first time, the most secretive of all Khmer Rouges – Brother Number One – was going to talk.
On camera, Pol Pot seemed affable and managed to explain himself with ease. However, he said practically nothing of interest about the reasons for the murder and atrocities committed during his regime. He denied knowing about the mass killings because he said that he was at the top level and only knew about “important” problems!