The nomination of Rithy Panh's 'The Missing Picture' as best foreign film has lifted the spirits of a nation.

Being nominated for an Oscar is always a big deal, lifting someone's career or a movie's fortunes at the box office. In Cambodia, an Oscar nomination is proving to be a big deal for an entire nation, crystallizing how important reviving the arts has been for a country devastated by decades of war, genocide and corruption.
One of the movies nominated for best foreign film this year is "The Missing Picture," by Cambodia's master filmmaker Rithy Panh. His movie tells the story of the unspeakable horrors perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge and its leader, Pol Pot, who turned Cambodia into a mass labor camp. Panh's parents and brother were among the nearly 2 million people killed by the regime in less than four years.
Panh's survival was remarkable. It is as if Anne Frank had lived through the Holocaust and been able to tell her own story in a film as writer and director. In "The Missing Picture," Panh uses clay figures set against archival films and photographs. Poignant, unexpected, Cambodian.
This nomination made history: the first time a Cambodian film has been nominated for an Oscar. It also broke open a breathing space for Cambodians fighting to recover their democracy.
The new year began with Cambodian police opening fire on unarmed garment workers, who were demonstrating to be paid $160 a month. By the end of the day, police had killed five people and injured many more. For good measure, the authoritarian government of Hun Sen put a ban on all demonstrations. Politics were getting ugly once again.
Then Hollywood intervened. News of the historic Oscar nomination was everywhere. Social media lit up. Cambodians were elated, sending messages thanking the film's director for lifting their spirits and saying they could finally be proud after years of "darkness and despair."
Darkness doesn't begin to describe Cambodia's slow recovery from the Khmer Rouge, the battle for control over Cambodia and the fatal compromise that allowed Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge officer, to share power even though he lost the election in 1993.