To fully appreciate the warmth of the Cambodian people, it is valuable to recall the agonies that the country suffered from 1975 to 1979 under the depraved rule of Pol Pot.
Even if you saw Roland Joffé’s 1984 film “The Killing Fields,” it is well worth watching again. Based on an account of the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975 by journalist Sydney Schanberg, it recounts his inability to prevent his photographer, Dith Pran, from being shipped off to labor in the countryside. Schanberg’s book, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran” is equally riveting.
For a fictional account of this era, I recommend “In the Shadow of the Banyan” by Vaddey Ratner, the tale of a young girl who loses her family but manages to survive the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. And although it is a bit offbeat, I highly recommend a recent documentary called “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll,” in which the history of the country’s pop culture is interwoven with the rise of the Khmer Rouge that resulted in its destruction. This film is not available on DVD, but can be streamed.