PHNOM PENH —
After viewing Angelina Jolie’s latest production, “First They Killed My Father”, in Siem Reap this week, Cambodians say they hope the film will encourage more people to learn about their harrowing history.
Loun Punloeu, a university student, said she hoped the film would stop history from repeating.
“The film is so good, I’m touched,” she said. “Hopefully after young people watch the film they will help develop the country for the better and avoid such events in the future.”
The film is an adaptation of the memoir of Loung Ung, an author, which describes her traumatic early life under the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979.
Ung was just 5 years old when the regime took control of Phnom Penh, in April 1975, losing her father and later her mother and other relatives to the harsh conditions of its rule.
VOA Khmer's Sophat Soeung (right) interviews American actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung, author of "First They Killed My Father" in Siem Reap, Cambodia, February 18, 2017. (Neou Vannarin/VOA Khmer)
At the screening last week in Siem Reap, many broke into tears while watching the screening.
Tan So Reuy, 70, a Siem Reap resident who saw the film, said it “reflects the real situation under the Khmer Rouge regime that I experienced for three years.”
“It’s good film. And it’s valuable to the nation since it shows that Khmer people experienced numerous hardships during wartime. We divided and we argued to the point that a foreign country intervened. We suffered from the repercussions of the intervention, which left us with nothing.”
Heng Sitha, a student, said the film would spread awareness about the trauma suffered by those living under the Khmer Rouge.
“I knew that the regime was dark from what my mum and my grandma told me. I feel sorrowful for what had happened to Cambodia in the past, and I never want it to happen again,” he said.
Jolie, who has adopted a Cambodian son, said at the opening ceremony on Saturday: “I directed and aired the film in Cambodia for the first time to express my gratitude to Cambodia for giving me a new life and helping me become a mother.”
Angelina Jolie is being greeted by the Queen Mother Norodom Monineath and King Norodom Sihamoni at the premier of "First They Killed Father" at Siem Reap, Cambodia.(Amanda Boury/Netflix)
The Hollywood star, who was granted Cambodian citizenship by King Norodom Sihamoni 10 years ago, added: “This film was not made to focus on the horrors of the past, but to celebrate the resilience, kindness and talent of the Cambodian people. Most of all, this film is my way of saying thank you to Cambodia. Without Cambodia I may never have become a mother. Part of my heart is and will always be in this country.”
The film will be screened in Phnom Penh for the first time at Olympic Stadium on Tuesday and in Battambong on Wednesday. It will be available on Netflix from September.
Punloeu expects that all Cambodians will be able to see the film.
“If we screen the film internationally, more people will know more about us. After screening internationally, I hope the film can be screened again for free, so all people can watch it.”