This harrowing but rewarding 1984 drama concerns the real-life relationship between New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg and his Cambodian assistant Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor), the latter left at the mercy of the Khmer Rouge after Schanberg--who chose to stay after American evacuation but was booted out--failed to get him safe passage. Filmmaker Roland Joffé, previously a documentarist, made his feature debut with this account of Dith's rocky survival in the ensuing madness of the Khmer Rouge's genocidal campaign. The script of The Killing Fields
spends some time with Schanberg's feelings of guilt after the fact, but most of the movie is a shattering re-creation of hell on Earth. The late Haing S. Ngor--a real-life doctor who had never acted before and who lived through the events depicted by Joffé--is outstanding, and he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Oscars also went to cinematographer Chris Menges and editor Jim Clark. --Tom Keogh
The true story of the friendship between Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor) and Sidney Schanberg (Sam Waterson). The film begins in 1973 with Schanberg a New York Times journalist assigned to Cambodia, and assisted in his efforts by local representative Dith Pran. When Pnomh Penh falls to the Khmer Rouge two years later, Dith Pran helps Schanberg escape but must himself remain behind. Back in New York, Schanberg begins to draw up plans for how he might rescue his friend. With John Malkovich and Julian Sands appearing in supporting roles, the film won three Academy Awards.