The film, which was directed by Roland Joffé and won three Oscars, told the true-life story of Dith’s friendship with the American journalist Sydney Schanberg, and his survival through the four years of Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia. After surviving unimaginable horrors, Dith was reunited with Schanberg, who helped him settle in the US and make a new life with his family as a photographer on the New York Times.

In 1975, Dith and Sydney Schanberg stayed behind in Cambodia to cover the fall of the capital Phnom Penh to the Communist Khmer Rouge. Schanberg and other foreign reporters were allowed to leave the country, but Pran was not. Due to the persecution of intellectuals during the genocide, he hid the fact that he was educated or that he knew Americans, and he pretended that he had been a taxi driver. When Cambodians were forced to work in labour camps, Dith had to endure four years of starvation and torture before Vietnam overthrew the Khmer Rouge in December 1978. He coined the phrase “killing fields” to refer to the clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered during his 40-mile (60 km) escape.

Dith travelled back to Siem Reap where he learned that 50 members of his family had died. He escaped to Thailand on 3 October 1979.

After reaching the United States in 1980, Dith Pran became a photojournalist for the New York Times. He founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project to educate individuals around the world of the horrors he survived, and was appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1985. He was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1998, and also received the Award of Excellence from The International Center in New York.

He passed away on March 30th, 2008 after a battle with cancer.

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