Echoes of dance music resound, accompanying images of an overgrown ruin. Then we see silent black-and-white footage of French people dancing, from the time of Cambodia’s occupation (1863-1953) and incorporation by France into the colonial empire of Indochina. Rithy Panh (The Missing Picture, 2013) allows history’s voiceless to speak in this disturbing alternative history of Western colonization.
France is Our Mother Country is a combined history lesson and cinematic lecture on representation in which Panh illustrates how territories, cultures, and societies were destroyed in the name of liberty, equality, fraternity, and progress. He critically examines the French motherland’s “purely fraternal intentions” towards its colonies by re-editing silent propaganda films and their intertitles.
Through the juxtaposition of images showing subjugation or exploitation and the words that were used to rationalize this oppression, he powerfully exposes the hypocrisy that underlies colonial ideology.