The Cambodian premiere of First They Killed My Father took place at the Terrace of the Elephants at the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap on Saturday evening, ahead of the film’s worldwide release later this year on Netflix.
The film, which is directed by Angelina Jolie, is dedicated to all those who died under the Khmer Rouge and all those who survived. It focuses on the love and dedication of a Cambodian family, and celebrates the beauty, spirit and resilience of the Cambodian people and culture.
First They Killed My Father is the adaptation of Cambodian author and human rights activist Loung Ung’s gripping memoir of the same name, which details her survival of the deadly Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1978. The story is told through her eyes, from the age of five, when the Khmer Rouge came to power, up to nine years old.
The film depicts the indomitable spirit and devotion of Loung and her family as they struggle to stay together during the Khmer Rouge years. Ung survived and wrote First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, which was first published in 2000. After reading Ung’s memoir, Angelina contacted her over a decade ago and they have been close friends ever since.
The film was shot on location in Cambodia, between November 2015 and February 2016. Filmed entirely in the Khmer language, it is the largest movie ever made in the country. Cambodian technicians, artisans and crafts people comprised the largest portion of the crew, along with more than 3,500 Cambodian background actors.
The cast is made up of Cambodian actors, many of which are appearing in a film for the first time. Srey Moch Sareum, who plays the central role of Loung from the ages of five to nine, and from whose point of view the story unfolds, was discovered in a local charity school.
Loung’s parents (Pa and Ma) are played by Phoeung Kompheak and Sveng Socheata. By profession, Phoeung is an interpreter in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, but he has also played the lead in the French film The Gate. Sveng, meanwhile, is one of Cambodia’s best-known actors. Loung’s siblings are portrayed by Nita and Nika Sarun (Geak), Chenda Run (Chou), Kimhak Mun (Kim), Sreyneang Oun (Keav), Sothea Khoun (Khouy) and Dara Heng (Meng).
First They Killed My Father is a Netflix original film produced by Angelina Jolie, acclaimed Cambodian director and producer Rithy Panh, director of the Oscar-nominated The Missing Picture and Michael Vieira (By the Sea). Xavier Box (Umrika) and Patricia Rommel (The Lives of Others) are editors.
Loung Ung, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, Adam Somner (Bridge of Spies) and Charles Schissel (The Prestige) are executive producers. Academy Award winning director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire), production designer Tom Brown (By The Sea) and costume designer Ellen Mirojnick (By The Sea) hold key creative positions.