comScore Angelina Jolie Film Based on First, They Killed My Father | The Mary Sue

Angelina Jolie to Direct Khmer Rouge Film Based on First, They Killed My Father for Netflix

Directing done right.

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie has made quite a name for herself as a director, choosing projects that are both personally meaningful to her, and historically or politically important. She continues that trend with her next project; one that she’s developing via Netflix.

Jolie is both co-adapting (along with Loung Ung) and directing a film based on Ung’s memoir First, They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers for the streaming service, which is set to be released in late 2016. Here’s a synopsis of the book from Amazon:

One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung’s family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.

Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung’s powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.


Jolie doesn’t exactly go in for light fare, does she? However, it’s awesome that she is helping this woman tell her story to a broader audience. There’s also a very personal connection for her, too, as her adopted son, Maddox, is originally from Cambodia. He’ll actually be involved with the film as well, though it’s unclear how at this time. Also involved with the film as a producer is Cambodian director, Rithy Panh, who directed the Oscar-nominated film (for Best Foreign Language Film of 2014), The Missing Picture.

According to /Film, Jolie says:

I was deeply affected by Loung’s book. It deepened forever my understanding of how children experience war and are affected by the emotional memory of it. And it helped me draw closer still to the people of Cambodia, my son’s homeland. It is a dream come true to be able to adapt this book for the screen, and I’m honored to work alongside Loung and filmmaker Rithy Panh.

It’s exciting enough that, in Jolie, we have one more accomplished and talented female director to admire. But Jolie is also doing everything right with regard to telling stories that are not her own: co-writing the script with the Cambodian woman whose story it is, having a Cambodian filmmaker working as a producer on the project, and having her Cambodian son involved – all to ensure an authentic perspective. I love that about Jolie’s approach to directing. She knows her privilege, and she uses it to amplify the voices of others. If only more directors, and Hollywood pros in general, would approach their storytelling in this way.

(Jolie Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

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