Siem Reap, Cambodia—Angelina Jolie unveiled her new film on the horrors of the Khmer Rouge era on Saturday at the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, a country the star shares a deep affinity with through her adopted son Maddox.
Cambodia’s king and survivors of the communist regime were among some 1,500 people invited to the debut screening of “First They Killed My Father,” directed by Jolie and based on the memoirs of Loung Ung.
Loung Ung was five years old when Khmer Rouge troops, led by Pol Pot, swept into Phnom Penh plunging her family into a harrowing ordeal that saw them sent to brutal labor camps before her eventual escape to the United States.
In its quest for an agrarian Marxist utopia, the regime killed up to two million Cambodians between 1975-79 through execution, starvation and overwork.
It is the second movie by Jolie to tackle the subject of genocide – in 2011 she made a film about the Bosnian conflict featuring mostly local actors. But her latest silver screen offering is more personal.
Jolie adopted her first child Maddox from an orphanage in Cambodia’s western Battambang province in 2002 and she has been given Cambodian citizenship.
The Hollywood star previously said it was Maddox who pushed her to make the film.
At a press conference in Siem Reap, Jolie described Cambodia as a “second home,” adding that she chose Loung Ung’s book because she wanted to tell the story of the Khmer Rouge era “through the eyes of a child.”
“I wanted to focus not just on the war but on the love of family and on the beauty of the country and in fact I wanted to understand what my son’s birth parents may have gone through. And I wanted to know him better and I wanted to know this country better,” she said.
The film is also co-produced by Rithy Panh, Cambodia’s most acclaimed filmmaker.
He lost almost all his immediate family during the Khmer Rouge years but went on to produce searing documentaries that helped break the silence surrounding the genocide.
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