Interesting that she is giving a U.S-based interview when her film will not be released in the U.S. for several months.
TOMORROW ONLY ON @GMA: Angelina Jolie LIVE one-on-one with @GStephanopoulos. Plus, our EXCLUSIVE interview with Christina El Moussa. pic.twitter.com/X2bhU72kyi— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 21, 2017
Angelina Jolie exclusive: Cooking bugs in Cambodia https://t.co/L6KwmmPvju— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) February 20, 2017
Angelina Jolie says "I have raised my son to be very. very proud to be Cambodian" . (Feb. 20)
FTKMF Director's editorial
Merci à #AngelinaJolie et @RPanh pour l’émouvante première de First they killed my father #FTKMF à #angkor pic.twitter.com/klcEJXItlM— France au Cambodge (@FranceCambodge) February 20, 2017
“It reminds us of the pain,” the 55-year-old said.
“For me, this film is very close to what the Khmer Rouge did to me because they never cared, regardless of whether we were young or old,” he said. “They treated us like animals.”
Mr. Vet was one of dozens of survivors who watched the first screening of Ms. Jolie and French-Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh’s adaptation of Loung Ung’s best-selling Khmer Rouge survival memoir, alongside the king and queen mother.
The highest-profile film about the Khmer Rouge since 1984’s “The Killing Fields,” the Netflix production depicts how the life of Loung’s family—branded “new people” by the Khmer Rouge—falls apart once the ultra-communists overrun the U.S.-backed Lon Nol regime and attempt to turn the country into a sprawling mass labor camp.
The film, and audience, see the regime through the eyes of a child, a point of view that only added to the challenge of vividly recreating the horrors of life under the Khmer Rouge.
“It was hard, of course, telling the story through the eyes of what a child sees,” Ms. Jolie said during a press conference before the screening, where she was joined by Mr. Panh and Ms. Ung.
“You can’t have a scene where there’s a bunch of men explaining the war. You need to have it from the child’s point of view and so the child picks up pieces.”
“There were scenes that were very difficult because you’re not supposed to hug in front of the Khmer Rouge, you’re not supposed to cry in front of the Khmer Rouge, you’re not supposed to say mother or father in front of the Khmer Rouge,” she added.
“So these things were very limited, but hopefully in the film that’s explained so you can feel…how they had to hold a lot of emotion publicly, which is really difficult.”
The film is rare for offering lighter moments—of Loung playing with her siblings and talking with her father—alongside depictions of death and destruction faced by Cambodians during the three years, eight months and 20 days of Pol Pot’s rule.
Another child survivor of the Khmer Rouge, Youk Chhang, now the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said that it was the moments depicting beauty amid the grim reality of life that hit him the hardest.
“It shows another side of the history—you see the smile. When you see the smile of the child, it breaks my heart, it brought me to tears,” Mr. Chhang said.
“You see the vegetables, you see the fruits, you see the beautiful forests. It breaks your heart because it happened in a tragic period,” he added. “I have never seen a Khmer Rouge film with a smile in it. It’s the first Khmer Rouge film where there’s beauty in it.”
At the back of the screening area, the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) set up a tent where survivors could receive treatment if they found themselves overwhelmed by the graphic beatings, mine explosions and murders in the film.
“Looking at the back of the survivors, most of them were crying,” said Malin Pov, a TPO psychiatric nurse. “It makes them remember the past. Some survivors may not sleep that night or suffer bad dreams.”
Nobody sought out treatment after the film. Still, she said, she thought the film would be “helpful for all Cambodians.”
Krak Thy, 67, who was still seated after Ms. Jolie had exited the screening through a media scrum and into an awaiting minivan to cheers, said he was left thinking about the family members he had lost to the regime.
“It reminded me of seeing so many Cambodians die at the time, including five family members,” he said.
However, he believed that the film could help ensure that Cambodia never sees such brutality again.
“What I cannot forget is they never gave us enough food. For me, I want there to be more films to show the young generations to prevent it from happening again,” he said.
“Please, don’t keep this concealed.”
His old friend, Mr. Vet, agreed and said that the pain of the past was worth reliving if it protected future generations from the same fate.
“It reminds me of the pain,” he said. “But it’s a good reminder, that in the future no one can forget this serious pain we suffered.”
Phnom Penh Post
After the ministers, dignitaries and survivors of the Khmer Rouge had filed in Saturday evening, and Angelina Jolie had greeted the arrival of King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, the lights in the ruins of the ancient city of Angkor Thom finally dimmed for the world premiere of First They Killed My Father.
For a brief moment, the rustling of insects was the only sound before the audience of more than 1,000 was transported back to April 12, 1975.
An adaptation of Loung Ung’s autobiographical book recounting her and her family’s suffering under the Khmer Rouge, the Jolie-directed film depicts in vivid detail the forced evacuations from Phnom Penh, the journey to the brutal labour camps in the country’s northwest, and, for Ung, the conscription of children as soldiers into the ranks of the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea. Ung, who is portrayed in a highly emotional performance by child actress Sareum Srey Moch, was five years old when her family was ordered out of the capital.
For some fellow survivors in attendance at the world premiere, the depiction on the big screen was a harrowing trip back to the country’s darkest chapter.
Say Vorphorn, a 45-year-old doctor in attendance, said that while his experience as a child-survivor of the Khmer Rouge could not be compared to Ung’s, the loss of his own father resonated strongly.
“I was 3 years old during that time, but I didn’t suffer as much because my mother was a cook … [but] I feel this deeply inside my heart because my father was killed during that time,” he said.
Ma Rynet, the star of The Last Reel, who played an extra in a scene in which a captured Khmer Rouge soldier is beaten by angry villagers, said that seeing the final product brought her to tears.
“I hope the world will know Cambodia through this film,” she added.
Shot in the country between November 2015 and February 2016, the movie employed more than 3,500 background actors to recreate scenes showing the population transfers and forced collectivisation of the Khmer Rouge, as well as battle sequences from the eventual Vietnamese invasion that toppled the regime. The film is in Khmer, with occasional French and Vietnamese, and will be released later this year on Netflix.
In an interview with The Post, Jolie said that beyond highlighting the potential of Cambodia for filmmakers – foreign and domestic – she hopes the film will in some ways reintroduce the country to international audiences.
“I hope that people will not just look at this film as a history lesson but they will walk away with a new love and respect for the country,” she said. Attending the film with her six children – one of whom is Cambodian – Jolie has pledged to remain involved in supporting the local film industry.
After attending the premiere, Youk Chhang, the executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said the movie represented a new approach to portrayals of the trauma of the Pol Pot regime.
“I think that this film, for the first time, would train [a Cambodian audience] to look for a beauty in the darkness,” he said, noting that human scenes, in which Ung shares a cricket to eat with her sister, or is hit by her brother after stealing rice, “really capture the heart”.
Himself a child survivor, Chhang felt that it accurately captures the emotional complexities of a childhood experience of mass atrocity.
“Children don’t use physical resistance, they use emotion. It’s the only form of resistance to fight [with] … I think Angie [Jolie] captured the complexities of the emotion on the camera.”
Jolie, speaking to The Post after the film’s Saturday press conference at the Raffles Hotel, said that rendering a child’s point-of-view on-screen was a central challenge in orchestrating the camera-work with director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle.
A difficulty was not just having shots at Ung’s low height but deciding “what she will and will not look at”.
“That point of view grows. At a certain point she cannot look at blood, and when she’s older the POV matures and gets hardened and she starts to witness things she didn’t when she was younger,” she said.
Loung Ung, in an interview on Saturday, said that she hoped the film may break misconceptions about the emotional experience of surviving war and genocide.
“I think people will see that it takes more than anger, [and] it takes more than strength to survive. It takes love, it takes soul and we Cambodians have that in spades,” she said.
Another survivor, Sin Nou Visakha, 65, broke into tears as she spoke to The Post after the screening, calling “the image the same as reality”.
She hoped the film could educate Cambodia’s youth about the horrors of the past.
“I want the young children to watch this, more than old people, because we have been through it and some of them don’t believe that we suffered like that.”
First They Killed My Father will be screening in Phnom Penh at Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, February 21, at 6pm and in Battambang on February 23. It will be available on Netflix later this year.
Khmer Times/Mark Tilly
SIEM REAP – It could not have been a more iconic setting: the sun sinking behind the Terrace of the Elephants at Angkor Archaeological Park as roughly 1,000 people took their seats for the premiere of Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father” – a film heralded as one of the most ambitious the country has seen.
The gravity of the film’s premiere could not have been felt more, with the presence of King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, the film’s cast and crew as well as survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime in attendance, marking the atmosphere with a celebratory but somber tone.
“This film was not made to focus on the horrors of war, but the resilience, kindness and talent of the Cambodian people,” Ms. Jolie told the audience on Saturday.
Based on Loung Ung’s memoir recounting her childhood experience surviving the Khmer Rouge, the film, Ms. Jolie said, was both a love letter to Cambodia, of which she has had a long and celebrated history, and a reminder that Ms. Ung’s childhood story was one being repeated in conflicts around the world.
“There are little Loungs around today in many different countries in many different war zones where we have no access to them and we don’t know if they’re going to be alright, so her story is their story, and so it is in many ways universal,” she said.
Despite the film focusing on her childhood experience, Ms. Ung said it was the story of all Cambodians who were involved in creating the film and those who lived and died under the Khmer Rouge.
“I’m very proud of the film and view it as the story of all of us,” she said at a press conference at Raffles on Saturday.
“It is driven by the plot of my family, but also everyone who became involved and became a part of our story, a part of their story – from the make-up people to the lighting to the actors.”
Shot entirely in Cambodia over the course of 2015-16 with an all Cambodian cast, the film has been hailed as a technical milestone for the local film industry, with the production employing thousands of Cambodian artisans, technicians and extras.
While the film’s subject matter deals with the same events as the 1984 film “The Killing Fields,” the two films could not feel further apart, with only a glimpse of a foreign journalist in the film’s opening sequence recounting five-year-old Ung and her family being evacuated from Phnom Penh.
What follows is the harrowing account of Ung and her family being torn apart, separated and relocated from work camp to work camp, before Ung herself is forced into the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea.
Ms. Jolie noted the dedication that child actress Sareum Srey Moch and her fellow child co-star Mun Kimhak gave to their emotive performances.
“What’s interesting for me is the questions they ask, how seriously they take learning about their facial expressions and how to emote themselves and learning about the story and the scenes, taking it so seriously, it’s amazing,” she said.
Srey Moch was much more modest in her own critique.
“I found it hard to express myself correctly,” she said at the press conference.
Viewing something as traumatic as war and genocide through the eyes of a child and her own close relationship with Ms. Ung, Ms. Jolie said it is what compelled her to film the subject material.
“I wanted to tell the story through the eyes of a child and I wanted to walk through this story with a different point of view,” she said.
It was this uniqueness that attracted Netflix to fund and air the film, according to chief communications manager Jonathan Friedland.
“We look for human, universal stories that people can relate to, and they don’t have to be classic,” he said on the sidelines of Saturday’s press conference, adding that the medium of internet television would bring Ms. Ung’s story to millions around the globe.
“The fact that people get access to this movie at the exact same moment globally in 190 countries means more people will see a movie like this than could ever have been the case in a traditional theatrical pattern.”
However, as the lights came up after the screening, the feeling was that regardless of how well the film was received overseas, it was a night of creative pride and catharsis for many of the Cambodians in attendance.
“To have the premiere for the first time here in Cambodia makes us very happy,” producer and filmmaker Rithy Panh said on Saturday.
“We are very lucky because here in Cambodia we use art to process our feelings. Everything that you can express is good because this story must be told and it belongs to everyone. We need that.”
“First They Killed My Father” will be screened again at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday and in Battambang on Wednesday before its release on Netflix in September.