Angelina Jolie's new film, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers made its North American debut on Saturday at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. The film, which Jolie directed, produced, and co-wrote is based on the memoir by Loung Ung, about her life as a child soldier in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime. The brutal regime seized control of the country in 1975, bringing with it a reign of terror and genocide.
Jolie bought a copy of Ung's book for $2 on a street corner during one of her first trips to Cambodia and said it changed her life. During a Q&A with Ung at the film festival, Vanity Fair reports that Jolie said she was "struck by how ignorant" she was about the history of the country. In 2002, Jolie adopted her oldest son, Maddox, from a Cambodian orphanage. "I wanted my son to know who his countrymen are," she said in the Q&A when asked about why she made the film. Now 16, Maddox served as an executive producer on First They Killed My Father and helped review multiple drafts of the film, according to People.
Maddox attended the premiere with Jolie, along with her five other children, Pax, 13 (who served as an on-set photographer for the film); Zahara, 12; Shiloh 11, and 9-year-old twins Vivienne and Knox.
The film stars Sareum Srey Moch and Kimhak Mun, and Vanity Fair reports that Jolie said she took pains during the filming not to retraumatize the survivors, making sure there were therapists on-set and building a roadblock to explain to locals what was happening. The film may be about a bleak subject, but the imagery is anything but, taking pains to focus on the beautiful things, which was a choice Ung said was important to her. During the Q&A she said, "My Cambodia isn’t black and white pictures of graves and skulls. My Cambodia is so green... it’s monks, it’s smiles."
First They Killed My Father premieres on Netflix on September 15th.
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