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Sydney Schanberg joins Dith Pran

Sydney Schanberg passed away over the weekend, and I felt a strong desire to say something about it. Why? I wasn’t a regular reader of his work (New York Times columnist & Pulitzer Prize winner for international reporting), and I probably haven’t thought about him for years. But as a film critic/fanatic, part of Mr. Schanberg’s story is responsible for one of my most emotional reactions in a movie theater. I don’t believe I made a sound. There’s a good chance I didn’t even shed a tear. But the heart-wrenching, visceral feeling I experienced, when watching the final scene in Roland Joffe’s Academy Award-winning “The Killing Fields” in 1984, when I was 19-years-old, is something I’ll never forget. Pictured above is Haing S. Ngor (winner of Best Supporting Actor for this role) as Dith Pran, and Sam Waterston as Mr. Schanberg. Set during Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, I honestly didn’t even fully grasp the politics and history of the film’s story when I first attended in my teens. The appreciation of that came later. But there is a reunion scene at the end of the film, set to John Lennon’s beautiful song “Imagine”, that has been called one of the greatest tear-jerkers in film history. It has to be true. I know I cried after viewing it subsequent times, and I distinctly remember people weeping at the multiplex. It’s stayed with me all these years, and I urge you to absorb the entire 141-minute epic. You can certainly pull up the finale on YouTube, but the impact will not be the same without travelling the entire journey. Dith Pran left us in 2008, at the age of 65. And the tragic Haing S. Ngor was murdered in 1996. And now Sydney Schanberg has been reunited with Pran for a final time. And considering it’s a cinematic happening that affected me so deeply, I wanted to be sure to share it with you. Rest in peace, Mr. Schanberg. “The Killing Fields” is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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