Angelina Jolie’s next film as director will be getting its Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, but for now you can watch the film’s harrowing first trailer.
“First They Killed My Father” is about the Khmer Rouge’s genocide in Cambodia in the mid–1970s, based on the memoir by Loung Ung, and co-produced by Cambodian documentary filmmaker Rithy Panh, and co-executive produced by Jolie’s son Maddox Jolie-Pitt. The film depicts Ung’s terrifying journey as a young child under the Khmer Rouge’s murderous regime.
Jolie’s film recently came under fire after a Vanity Fair profile alleged a disturbing process of casting the children in the film.
“The casting directors set up a game, rather disturbing in its realism: they put money on the table and asked the child to think of something they needed the money for, and then to snatch it away,” the profile claimed.
Jolie said in the article that Srey Moch, who appears in the film, was “the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time.”
“When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion,” Jolie added. “All these different things came flooding back. When she was asked later what the money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn’t have enough money for a funeral.”
After the profile was published, Jolie released a statement explaining that the children were always aware it was a “game”: “Every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of the children on the film starting from the auditions through production to the present.”
Another statement from Panh describes the process more fully, saying, “Ahead of the screen tests, the casting crew showed the children the camera and the sound recording material. It explained to them that they were going to be asked to act out a part: to pretend to steal petty cash or a piece of food left unattended and then get caught in the act. It relates to a real episode from the life of Loung Ung, and a scene in the movie, when she and her siblings were caught by the Khmer Rouge and accused of stealing.”
Judging from the trailer, it looks like that work toward authenticity paid off.
In a translated statement to Deadline, Panh talks about the importance of “First They Killed My Father” to Cambodia.
“Many Cambodians cried when they watched the film. Cinematic fiction incorporates individual stories, and finds a particular resonance with each individual’s story. Looking through the eyes of others enables us to confront our own history, to recognize ourselves in that history, to regain our dignity, and to reconcile ourselves with irreparable loss,” Pahn says.
“First They Killed My Father” is Jolie’s fourth film as director, after the most recent “Unbroken” and “By the Sea”. The film will be released on Netflix later this year.