The Missing Picture

Why was that so important to you?

I always try to focus on the individual, on what makes us human. Part of the Khmer Rouge project was not only to destroy individual people, but to destroy the very notion of the individual.

I want to simply rebuild the stories of people – it’s part of my fight against the Khmer Rouge agenda.

In a recent memoir, you speak critically of the concept of “banality of evil” – not necessarily Arendt’s association but the way it has been used. And suggest an alternative section called the banality of good.

I have the impression that people often don’t understand what Arendt is saying. The expression by itself is seductive – it automatically exonerates us.  Evil has always been there, it’s always a part of us, evil is no big surprise. But what about the people who gave freely, who stood up for human dignity?  Even in the most extreme and terrible situations, these acts of dignity existed. And for me that is the banality of good.

There are several powerful moments in The Missing Picture in which you see individual characters standing up for human dignity, and for each other.  And not just characters – your own parents.

It’s important for us survivors to remember we didn’t survive because we were stronger, or braver, or better. We survived because there were other people who with simple gestures -- of love, of sacrifice, of solidarity. And sometimes, they protected us with their lives.