The role of a producer has faded in importance over the years, but at one time it was considered to be of equal significant as the director. Possibly the greatest British producer and one of the best known names in British cinema during the late ’70s and 80s was David Puttnam. He produced several of the greatest films of the period including Local Hero, Chariots of Fire, The Mission and The Killing Fields. The 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release of the latter brings a remarkable story to a new generation.
Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterson) is an American journalist based in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh during the Vietnam War. The war has spilled over and there’s a civil war raging between the Cambodian army and the Khmer Rouge. Sydney is working with local translator and journalist Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor), and the pair work as a team to cover the unfolding events. When the Embassies begin evacuations ahead of the arrival of the Khmer Rouge, Sydney, along with fellow western journalists Al Rockoff (John Malkovich) and Jon Swain(Julian Sands) , desperately try and find a way for Pran to leave with them. When all their endeavours fail, Pran has to use all his wits to keep himself alive whilst Sydney can only watch from afar.
Described by Puttnam as his best film, The Killing Fields is an outstanding piece of cinema. Director Roland Joffé does a masterful job of telling such an important story in a way which is both entertaining and sensitive. It was nominated for seven Oscars (winning three), but was beaten to Best Picture by the vastly inferior Amadeus. However, Haing S. Ngor deservedly won Best Supporting Actor. Ngor wasn’t a trained actor but a surgeon who was persuaded by Puttnam and Joffé to play the role to help make the world aware of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge -under whose rule he personally suffered and lost his wife. The duo also had to struggle to secure Waterson as he wasn’t the big name star the studio was seeking.
The Killing Fields also won the best Oscar for cinematography, and it still looks incredible to this day. Combined with Bruce Robinson’s script It’s an important, visually arresting and involving film, the like of which we rarely see in modern cinema.
• Brand new interview with Director Roland Joffé
• Brand new interview with Bruce Robinson
• Commentary with Director Roland Joffé
• Interview with Lord Puttnam
The Killing Fields (30th Anniversary Edition) is released on Blu-ray by Studio Canal on November 3rd.