Director Angelina Jolie tells the harrowing true-life story of a young Cambodian girl in the time of Pol Pot in the first trailer for her upcoming film, First They Killed My Father. Netflix is releasing the movie, which was filmed on location in Cambodia using only Cambodian actors speaking their native tongue.
Adapted from a memoir by Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father begins in Cambodia in the early ’70s – when the violent Khmer Rouge regime came to power and stormed the city of Phnom Penh, where Ung’s father worked as a government official. Ung’s family was forced to flee into the jungle and eventually broke up, with Ung ultimately being placed in a camp for orphans – where she became a child soldier forced to fight the invading Vietnamese.
The first trailer for First They Killed My Father from Netflix essentially provides a visual synopsis of Loung Ung’s harrowing story, showing the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Ung’s family’s flight from the capital into the jungle and her eventual transformation into a child soldier. The trailer plays out without dialogue, using evocative visuals and unsettling music to set up the story. A poster (see below) depicts the film’s young heroine literally caught in the middle of the violent unrest in her nation, with the title presented both in Khmer and English.
Jolie is no stranger to taking on horrifying and difficult material as a director. Her debut fiction film, In the Land of Blood and Honey, saw Jolie exploring the Bosnian War with most of the actors speaking their native Balkan languages. Jolie received Oscar buzz for her second film Unbroken, an adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s best seller about American pilots taken prisoner by the Japanese during WWII.
First They Killed My Father has found itself at the center of controversy after a Vanity Fair article portraying Jolie’s unusual casting process for the film, which saw the director visiting orphanages and slums in search of child actors, and employing a strange acting test that some have criticized for being exploitative. In the test, money would be placed on a table and the child asked to think about what they needed the money for before snatching it off the table. At that point Jolie would “capture” the child and force them to make up a lie about why they needed the money. Jolie answered her critics by denying the game was exploitative, calling the “test” an exercise in improvisation.
The young actress chosen by Jolie’s unorthodox method, Srey Moch, is front-and-center in the trailer as Loung Ung, the orphan girl who becomes a child warrior for Pol Pot. We’ll see if Jolie’s strange approach to casting paid off when First They Killed My Father makes its way to Netflix.
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