By Monica Delgado

Presented in the international competition of the 72nd Berlinale, Everything Will Be Ok, by the Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, is an activist statement against everything that makes up the destruction of the world: totalitarianism, genocide, exploitation, cruelty, subjugation, decadence, in a great cocktail visual, typical of the reflective essay film, and in this case with a particular political agenda.

Taking miniatures in dioramas as a starting point and using the same resource as in his previous film The Missing Picture (2015), Panh builds a fictional and fabulous universe, where the beasts (among orangutans and wild boars) refer with their works to the leaders of the most representative totalitarian states, from Hitler to Stalin. Pahn proposes an Orwellian world whose seeds are not in fiction but in reality, in a past that is recovered from the search for film archives, where images of Fritz Lang or Meliés emerge with another meaning. The scenes that are observed, as a tableux vivant, and those from the archives will more than expose the impossibility of revolution, or in any case, the deformation of any utopia that becomes the overwhelming power of a few against the subjugated population. and exploited. It is a powerful criticism against dehumanization, or in any case it highlights that everything human with power suffocates, destroys or kills.

In this film, Panh moves away from the compilation of testimonies, or from the historical reflection based on them, about the horror in Cambodia, as happens in S21, la machine de mort Khmére rouge (S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, 2002 ), one of his great documentaries, and opts for a voiceover in French, by a narrator who explores the scenes and gives meaning to the political position of the film. A gesture against human horror, but also before the possibility of a return of all this, at the hands of these animals in rebellion. Therefore, any action on earth will have this despotic nature, of control over others. Thus, distrust in science and its experiments, the sacrifice of animals to eat them, or the sending of animals into space as methods of torture predominate in the argument.

There is in this Panh documentary a “libertarian” affiliation, which unfortunately can be allied to current dogmatisms that reduce horror or decadence to a condition per se of human nature, where no one is saved by the imposition of state control. The scenes of scientific experiments with humans and animals, both those applied by the communist and Nazi governments, can be easily related in Everything Will Be Ok, with scenes of populations being vaccinated (with a clear reference to the current pandemic situation). How much reductionism! Even more so when the film premieres at a festival that is possible precisely because of a strict protocol that involves three doses of vaccines. For Panh, scientific efforts can continue to spread the horror.

Berlinale official competition
Director: Rithy Panh
Screenplay: Rithy Panh, Agnès Sénémaud, Christophe Bataille, Voice Over Writer
Photography: Rithy Panh, Prum Mesa
Editing: Rithy Panh
Music: Marc Marder
Sound: Eric Tisserand
France, Cambodia, 2021, 97 min