On 18 February 2017 came a very special day in Siem Reap, the small vibrant city to the south of the Temple of Angkor in Cambodia. Many people may already know that last year Angelina Jolie directed the documentary feature film “First They Killed My Father” about the terror of the Khmer Rouge. Angelina is the woman who flickered across our screens in front of the Angkor scenery as Lara Croft in the filming of the computer game Tomb Raider. At that time, hardly anyone would have thought that Angelina Jolie would work on the story of Cambodia a few years later in her own production. Nevertheless, this year the premiere of her film “First They Killed My Father” took place in Siem Reap.

Staged freely on the grounds in front of the elephant terrace

The premiere of “First They Killed My Father” took place on a large scale at the front of the elephant terrace of the Angkor Park. When it came to picking a venue, there could be no better place for this event. As far back as the 12th century as the Angkor empire bloomed, the famous King Jayavarman VII watched the games and parades at this exact location.

The role was hard for me. Actually, I did not want to see or hear about stories from the past. But we must remember, we must not forget the regime of the Khmer Rouge.

[Sopyh Hun, Cast member]

And on this day those games were in the form of a film on an emotive subject – what a historic moment in a historical place. In the photo at the top of the page you can see the screen and the chairs decorated for the premiere.

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The story of “First They Killed My Father”

The film “First They Killed My Father” is based on the autobiography of Cambodian human rights activist Loung Ung. She was only five years old when the Khmer Rouge invaded Phnom Penh. She was still to experience the coming years and all their horrors. Separated from her siblings, she was educated as a child soldier in a children’s home. In 1980 she managed to escape to Thailand on a boat with her older brother Meng and his wife. There they spent five months in a refugee camp before relocating to Vermont in the USA.

A gift for Cambodia

Hundreds of survivors and their children came together in Siem Reap to recreate their own story for the movie “First They Killed My Father”. The war, told from the perspective of a child, yet at the same time very much the story of Cambodia. It was the first time that such a thing had happened; that in such a way the past of Cambodia, during the time of the Khmer Rouge regime, had been talked about.

I’ve tried to make a film that is not just about policies, politics, or war. It is a film that is at its core about the people in Cambodia and their families. A film about love and survival. I hope that the Cambodians will feel a sense of pride when they see in the film, about what they have survived and who they really are.

[Angelina Jolie, Director]

Loung Ung wrote the screenplay for the film in collaboration with Angelina Jolie. For Loung Ung, what Angelina has done with “First they killed my Father” is a great gift. A film for her country, played only by Cambodian actors and in the original Khmer language. There will be no dubbing, just subtitles. Another gift to the Cambodians, around 50 local people from each village received an invitation to the premiere. Before “First They Killed My Father” will be shown at Netflix in autumn 2017, there will be two more screenings at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh and in Battambang. Here are the details:

Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • Elephant Terrace, Angkor Thom
  • 18 February 2017
  • 6 pm – 11 pm

Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • Elephant Terrace, Angkor Thom
  • 19 February 2017
  • 6 pm – 11 pm

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

  • Indoor Arena, Olympic Stadium
  • 21 February 2017
  • 6 pm – 8.45 pm

Battambang, Cambodia

  • 23 February 2017

Netflix

  • 15 September 2017

Producer Rithy Panh

The film was produced by the film maker, Rithy Panh. He too experienced the terror of the Khmer Rouge. He escaped and graduated from the prestigious Paris film school École Nationale Supérieure des métiers de l’image et du son. Since then all his works have dealt with the aftermath of the regime under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

We need to talk in order to mourn. Talk is the opportunity to work on something and redefine ourselves. To tell a story means to grieve and consider the future at the same time.at the same time mourning and looking into the future. This movie is much more than just a movie. What we are trying to build is a kind of bridge between our past and the future. Between those who have departed, the survivors and the coming generations.

[Rithy Panh, Producer]

It was certainly not easy to watch this movie, it was hard but also important. Angelina Jolie was in Siem Reap for two days. And, of course, she attended the premiere in person.

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6 Comments

  1. when are people going to stop exploiting Cambodia and the Khmer people Others only want to exploit the ignorance of the local people and Angelina is one the these scammers ….who travels the world and ‘buys’ children Started with Maddox the Khmer boy
    Interestingly at the same time time as Angelinas abduction of Maddox …the richest lady in America …. Libby Johnson…did the same (covering up by using her Mexican boyfriend)

    1. Ah ok, if Angelina would not be rich, the adoption of Maddox would be no problem for you… However, what is your solution? Tell me the best way to support Cambodia, to help locals and further on. Just claiming is pretty easy, but finding solutions and doing something can be more hard. Also small things can be huge – it depends on the heart inside. I am happy for you if you can support people you love around you as best as possible. Angelina does in her way – and for sure, the way she does brings a huge attention to Cambodia. I am not sure, if that could be a bad thing.

      How about the author Loung Ung. How do you think does she feel? Much more people read her story now, than before. And it was Angelina who told her story with a movie. How could this be a bad thing? Seems you don’t grant to her. Why? Have you ever been there during the film production? Have you had any contact to the team? To the Cambodian who earned good money during this time, to the Cambodian who have big memories in their life just because of the production. I know some of them and believe me, they all are glad. Found new friends around the world – maybe some of them will meet again, whereever on this planet. So you do not grant this to all the people?

      About Maddox: If Angelina would just have bought a child, she would have never ever been interested in Cambodia and make this film. Maybe I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one, as John Lennon said… Maybe this movie is just the beginning of a real big thing to bring Cambodia into a better future. Good things will happen :-)

  2. First I must say I was pleased to see your reply to my comments
    But the issue was in the first line.. .””when are people going to stop exploiting Cambodia”….
    Angelinas money was only about allowing her to get around the rules
    she was breaking…. same for Ms Johnson….. adoptions were banned at that time …. and many Americans were angry because they had been trying to adopt a Cambodian child for years So then later she tries to make herself look good by trying to appear ” Çambodian” ;
    Next two children from Africa and later a boy from Vietnam….. Virtually child trafficking covered up wth her money
    There were also feuds around Siem Reap on how Angelina favoured some people (with payments) over others
    Footnote; Loung Ungs book was the first of many I read when I came to Cambodia
    Again all this talk about the Khmer Rouge effect on Cambodia is rubbish…. just an opportunity for foreigners to come and make a financial killing…EXAMPLE with a charade of a trial of K.R. leaders Of course a few Cambodians jumped on the bandwagon too
    BUT basically Cambodians do not care a fig about the Khmer Rouge era…. there are still too many alive and living among the people
    It seems to me you are the one who talks about money… the poverty issue …as in your story on children begging
    Quote; “do not give money to children”‘…. O.K.
    But support social org ?? I would seriously like somebody to take me and show me the honest decent work of a social organisation
    I applied for a position of house parent with Sunrise (Geraldine Cox).in Seim Reap…bad news ….I live in a house that was rented for years by GERES (FRENCH) who failed in their attempt to build better clay cooking stoves…. truly the list goes on and on !!
    .The two biggest problems in Cambodia I believe are..
    1… after the war foreigners poured in here with money …so the people (adults) soon learnt to beg (ask) for money and also to get cushy jobs like guides or translators … So now they (Cambodians) still expect foreigners to give….. we have all the money….or to get easy job with N.G.O.s
    2…. their primitive beliefs… which is not Buddhist but more a form of Hinduism
    These are the main problems because the Khmer have to fix them themselves but they do not have the incentive to do so In their ignorance they do not want to learn
    CONSIDER; I would like to give a boy a chance to earn some money (son of a friend) picking up and bagging some cow dung for the garden..Right ..so father watches as son races out and starts picking up manure with his bare hands … I said stop… I told them I would not condone a situation where the childs health is in danger
    I have tried teaching at the schools…. I have spent hours talking to friends over coffee…but they do not want to listen (they just come for the free coffee and food)
    They are lazy and filthy …
    Do not ask me for the solution… at least I live here ….but do not have the luxury of being able to come and go back to Aust every year…and I still try to help adults improve their lives with training in pottery skills
    Perhaps if people …serious people not hippies… want to see real Cambodia they could visit me in Kampong Chhnang ..(.means port for pottery)
    Perhaps there is no solution… for the exploitation of Cambodia…. because it is the same as most places in the world
    Cambodia is not a poor country (too much foreign money has poured in)
    ..it has the RICH and the poor And the rich only care about themselves so do not talk about an amazing country

  3. Dear Ian, I read your interesting experience and views of Cambodia. A country can be both enjoying and frustrating, depends of our own situation. I think after this long writings it would be nice to have a talk about all this and meet each other and have a coffee. Maybe I can pass by in November and visit you and your work.

  4. Myself and my wonderful (Vietnamese ) partner would welcome you …. or others ..to visit us and perhaps experience Cambodia and the world from a viewpoint that I have developed over many years of trials and tribulations
    I only ask for an honest and open mind
    Perhaps you might like to have a try at making a pottery souvenir … We (only)
    serve true cappuccino coffee
    When it is closer to your time of coming here ….email

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