Were you successful in getting both victims and perpetrators in front of your camera?
Susanne Brandstätter: Yes. I wasn?t intending to find families who'd suffered really horrible fates, but rather average families.
At first, my go-betweens who supported me in my research went looking for particularly extreme cases. I did speak with these
people to deepen my knowledge, but I didn't feel that they were the right choice for the film itself. I finally succeeded
in finding two families in Cambodia and an exiled family living in Paris. That creates a very interesting contrast. These
three families all have offspring under 26, who are only now? for the first time because of the Tribunal - learning what happened,
by confronting their parents and neighbors with their questions. Many young people didn't initially believe their parents
at all, because they hadn't heard about what happened anywhere else. Some of the youths thought that their parents were just
making up horror stories in order to get them to eat up their rice, help with the housework etc.. And those youths who perhaps
did believe what they were told, didn't dare to ask questions, for fear of exacerbating their parents' pain.
The title The Future's Past is chosen so as to directly address the confrontation of two generations. Does your film let the past speak out more, or more
the "future," personified by the younger generation?
Susanne Brandstätter: I don't think you can look at the one without the other. This topic is most often dealt with by concentrating
on the past. I wanted to focus on the present in order to make clear that this coming to terms with the past now, will have
a very strong influence on the future. The way the young generation deals with it now will basically form the way people perceive
what happened and this will have an enormous impact. Even if the past gets swept under the rug. Dealing with it or not dealing
with it - both have a big influence on the future. Essentially, this is relevant for all of us. We are all confronted with
problems like these?whether in a historical context or within our own private spheres.
Austrian society, quite similarly, faces dealing with the crimes of National Socialism. Have you noticed differences in how
history is dealt with?
Susanne Brandstätter: I think that there are very strong parallels; in both countries, a lot has been sublimated up to now.
In Cambodia, some perpetrators have admitted to what they did and ask themselves why it happened. However, the majority of
them excuse their behavior by saying: "I couldn't do anything else; I had to follow orders." There are also a great number
of people in Cambodia who don't want anyone to find out about their involvement in these kinds of acts. What's good about
the Tribunal is that it makes the topic public, so that people are starting to talk about it. Up until now, silence and denial
have been very widespread phenomena in Cambodia. Often enough, not even the victims are willing to speak, let alone the perpetrators,
who represent all types of characters as in the Nazi regime. There were, above all, a huge number of collaborators without
whom the whole thing couldn't have worked. And there were spies everywhere, even hiding beneath the floors of the raised houses
at night - informants who claimed that they had heard something said against the regime. It went so far that couples, who
had been forced to marry were spied upon to make sure that the marriage was really consummated. If it hadn't been, the information
was reported and both were sent for "reeducation", which generally meant that they were executed. The people often went along
willingly, thinking that they actually would be attending some sort of course; they had no idea what actually awaited them.
Do you have the impression that the victims have a need for compensation?
Susanne Brandstätter: Yes, but the people's expectations are often unrealistic. They don't correspond with what the Tribunal
is actually able to do. There's a discrepancy. Effort is being made to clarify that there cannot be financial compensation,
because the total sum would be immeasurable, making it impossible to implement. Those who are less well informed still imagine
they might receive some financial compensation. What is being talked about now are other forms of compensation, in terms of
symbolic acts - such as a formal apology, a monument, schools, hospitals, care for the sick, things like that. But we don't
know what will actually happen.
How does your work as a filmmaker look there? Do you attend the trials?
Susanne Brandstätter: In the courtroom there are five cameras that capture everything; we're not able to bring our own cameras
into the courtroom itself. But on the Tribunal grounds, I'm filming the whole media-hype. It was important to me to show how
the trial is being conveyed to the general public, that is, how it is being communicated. It's not difficult to get access
to the Tribunal. You just have to obtain accreditation and then you can get in. The presence of the international media increases
only when there are certain highlights - at the opening session, and when very well-known witnesses take the stand. Otherwise,
I attended on days when there was hardly anyone there. That was to be expected. The trial has been going on for a long time
now. Duch pleaded guilty right from the beginning, but the case is still extremely interesting because, despite his guilty
plea, he is attempting to defend himself and ends up speaking a lot. He's basing his defense on having been forced to act
in an extreme situation, because his life would have been at risk otherwise. He tries again and again to prove that he can
assume no responsibility for his actions. In return, the state prosecutors sometimes attempt to use trick questions to prove
that it wasn't so. Observing Duch as a personality is really quite fascinating.
Can you describe the families, which you've selected?
Susanne Brandstätter: In all three of my families, there is a young person who wants to find out what happened and why. 20-year-old
Sopha, for example, had never been particularly interested in the past. When the proceedings started, her mother began volunteering
at an NGO that informs the public about the Tribunal; this instigated Sopha to begin asking her parents and acquaintances
questions. As her knowledge grows, she is forced to reflect on what she has learned - including what it means for her personally.
The families with whom I'm filming were not perpetrators, but one of their neighbors was. Sophany, one of the young protagonists,
who is a monk, went to him several times and questioned him on camera. In Cambodia, it is usual for young men to go to the
pagoda and become monks for a certain period of time. Sometimes they do it for six or twelve months, but Sophany has already
spent eight years at the pagoda, where he's also finishing his schooling. As a monk, one is a person of respect, and it's
this fact, which makes his confrontation with the perpetrator so interesting. You witness this man's ambivalence, as he attempts
to excuse his actions before Sophany and himself, and then, suddenly confesses and says he has sinned. This inner conflict