Jolie debuts Khmer Rouge film in Cambodia

Jolie, the director of First They Killed My Father, with her children in Cambodia, a country she shares a deep affinity with through her adopted son Maddox (centre).
Jolie, the director of First They Killed My Father, with her children in Cambodia, a country she shares a deep affinity with through her adopted son Maddox (centre).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SIEM REAP • Angelina Jolie yesterday unveiled her new film on the horrors of the Khmer Rouge era at the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, a country the star shares a deep affinity with through her adopted son Maddox.

Cambodia's king and survivors of the communist regime were among some 1,500 people invited to the screening of First They Killed My Father, directed by Jolie and based on the memoirs of Ms Loung Ung.

Ms Loung Ung was five years old when Khmer Rouge troops, led by Pol Pot, swept into Phnom Penh, plunging her family into a harrowing ordeal that saw them sent to brutal labour camps before her eventual escape to the United States.

In its quest for an agrarian Marxist utopia, the regime killed up to two million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979 through execution, starvation and overwork.

It is the second movie by Jolie to tackle the subject of genocide - in 2011 she made a film about the Bosnian conflict featuring mostly local actors. But her latest silver screen offering is more personal.

The Hollywood star adopted her first child, Maddox, from an orphanage in Cambodia's western Battambang province in 2002 and she has been given Cambodian citizenship.

At a press conference in Siem Reap, Jolie described Cambodia as a "second home", adding that she chose Ms Loung Ung's book because she wanted to tell the story of the Khmer Rouge era "through the eyes of a child". It also brought her closer to her son, she said.

Jolie added that she hoped her film would remind viewers of the need to help children escaping war and persecution today.

"There are little Loungs all around the world today in many different countries, many different war zones where we have no access to them and we don't know if they're going to be alright," she said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 19, 2017, with the headline 'Jolie debuts Khmer Rouge film in Cambodia'. Print Edition | Subscribe