Should you visit sites of mass murder on ‘holiday’? Ahead of Angelina Jolie’s Netflix original about the Khmer Rouge in 1970s Cambodia, we look at dark tourism and why it’s so important that people visit places of grief, death and suffering.
There’s never a ‘good’ time to visit Choeung Ek, the ‘killing kields’ which lie outside the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. The same can be said for the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the high school-turned-prison in the heart of the city. Both were places of torture, starvation and death between 1975 to 1979 when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia.
It’s a story many non-Cambodians only come to know when they visit Cambodia on holiday. In 1984, the book The Killing Fields charting the relationship between American journalist Sydney Schanberg and his Cambodian fixer Dith Pran, was turned into an international film, but now, some 30 years on, this history may reach a new, wider audience—not just globally but even among Cambodia’s younger generation.
Based on another book, First they killed my father: A daughter of Cambodia remembers, it’s a story of one family’s fate through the eyes of five-year-old Loung Ung. Directed by Angelina Jolie whose son Maddox is Cambodian, scripted by Jolie and Ung herself, and cast with local talent, it will be released as a Netflix Original later in 2017.