"The Killing Fields" (1984): The film is based on the story of New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg (Sam Waterston). When the U.S. involvement in Vietnam ends, Schanberg stays in Cambodia after the American evacuation. He suggests to his native translator Dith Pran (Haing S. Nor) that he remain to help him, knowing Pran could face death. Pran says goodbye to his family and stays. When Schanberg and others are captured by the Khmer Rouge, Pran pleads for their lives. The journalists then try to save Pran by making a fake passport, but the plan fails. Pran ends up in a Khmer Rouge re-education camp. On April 17, 1975, Khmer Rouge forces captured the capital city of Phnom Penh. The new government evacuated all cities and towns. More than a million people were killed by executions and enforced hardships. Schanberg returns to the United States and wins the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting but continues to search for Pran. Pran manages to escape and is eventually reunited with Schanberg. John Malkovich and Craig T. Nelson also have roles. The movie won three Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor for Ngor. It received four other nominations for Best Picture, Actor (Waterston), Director (Roland Joffe) and Adapted Screenplay.
"Salvador" (1986): Richard Boyle and director Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay based on Boyle's experiences. James Woods plays Boyle, an out-of-work journalist who heads to El Salavador with his friend Dr. Rock (James Belushi) after his wife takes his son and leaves him. He convinces Rock that they can cover the "little guerrilla war" while enjoying drink, drugs and women. But once in the country, they realize the danger. Boyle and a photojournalist witness hundreds of bodies left to rot in the sun by right-wing death squads. Catholic Archbishop Romero is assassinated and three American nuns and another woman are raped and murdered. Boyle decides it's time to get out, and he wants to take his new girlfriend and her children with him. Boyle fakes their papers and tries to escape. At the border, Boyle is beaten but is spared by a death squad. He and his family cross the border, but immigration officers send the woman and the children back to El Salvador. Oscar nominations went to Woods and the Original Screenplay. El Salvador's 12-year civil war ended in 1992. A military coup overthrew the government in 1979, but the ruling junta failed to quell a rebellion by leftists armed by Cuba and Nicaragua. The death squads were blamed for thousands of deaths. The Reagan administration staunchly supported the government with military aid.
"Under Fire" (1983): Nick Nolte is Russell Price, an American photojournalist covering the Nicaraguan revolution. Price meets Claire (Joanna Cassidy), a reporter for National Public Radio. They find themselves involved with revolutionaries and actually photograph a slain leader to make it appear that he is still alive. Network news anchor Alex Grazier (Gene Hackman) sees the photo and flies to the country to cover the story. Grazier is fatally shot by one of President Somoza's National Guardsmen, and Price captures it on film. The global response that follows helps put an end to Somoza's government. In 1979, an ABC correspondent, Bill Stewart, was killed by Somoza's troops. Videotape brought the murder to audiences in America. Somoza fled on July 19, 1979.