I often wondered what Angelina Jolie was up to, but little did I know she was working on a biopic that would send chills down my spine.
First They Killed My Father is a historical biopic directed by Jolie–based on the memoir of the same name–released on Netflix in 2017. Loung Ung, who wrote the memoir, also helps Jolie with the writing and direction of the film. The film takes place just as the U.S. Army is pulling out of Cambodia and the Communist Khmer Rouge regime begins their take over.
The film starts off with a powerful scene of the U.S. army pulling out of Cambodia. The people who aligned with the U.S. and expected help from them are now abandoned and must figure out what to do as the Khmer Rouge regime begins. I loved how Jolie was able to capture the fear and confusion of people trying to flee from the Khmer Rouge. This new regime was preaching unity and peace, but their actions showed they were going to kill off anyone who backed the old regime. Eventually, Loung Ung’s large family is captured after trying to escape; this is where most of the heartbreak happens until they are eventually saved by the Red Cross.
I admire how the film is told through the eyes of a child. Seeing things through Loung Ung’s perspective allows for a great contrast of childlike innocence versus the cruel reality the adults must try and hide from their kids. The love that Loung’s parents have for each other and their children makes this such a heartbreaking film. I often wondered how much a family must go through before they find some hope of freedom.
The most unique thing about this film is how the scenery of the film gives the most excruciating scenes a sense of beauty to them. The cinematography of the film deserves praise, but sometimes I felt the film was too pretty for what was being shown.
First They Killed My Father is one of the most important films of 2017. It brings to light the after-effects of the Vietnam War and how the U.S. withdrawal from the region caused a whole set of new problems. The film doesn’t come off as preachy or full of itself. It is straight to the point, delivering scene after scene of true events that most people have either forgotten or did not know about. I can often watch the most violent scenes in a film without flinching, but First They Killed My Father made me legitimately pause the film at least twice.
I am glad Jolie decided to direct and produce this gripping film, and my heart goes out to the Loung family, and the rest of those who suffered due to events they had no control over.