Based on the memoir of Loung Ung, “First They Killed My Father” tells Ung’s story as a girl trying to survive during the Khmer Rough years. Jolie has said the goal of the film is to tell the story of war from the perspective of a child, that it is through her eyes this conflict and country will be seen. The genocide that took place in those years saw the deaths of one quarter of the country’s population.
“First They Killed My Father” is Jolie’s fourth feature film, and if the trailer is any indication, the movie will be gorgeous to look at and will be authentic in utilizing local children to fill out the cast. The movie will be a Khmer-language film and was shot entirely in Cambodia.
Unfortunately for Jolie and Netflix (who will release the movie), “First They Killed My Father” has been the subject of a recent controversy due to their casting process. In short, in a Vanity Fair interview, Jolie talked about an exercise they would do assist the first time child actors get into a given scene. They would place money in front of the child, ask them to think about what they would use it for, give them the money, then take it away. The goal was to help these actors get into the harsh state of mind the film was capturing.
Vanity Fair’s write up of the practice (and the film community’s response) condemned Jolie and the producers for manipulating these children for their gain. Jolie has come out publicly to defend herself and her team’s practices, emphasizing that all of the children participating knew it was a “pretend game,” and that it was not real money given to them. In a statement to the Huffington Post she said,
“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…I am upset that a pretend exercise in an improvisation, from an actual scene in the film, has been written about as if it was a real scenario…The suggestion that real money was taken from a child during an audition is false and upsetting. I would be outraged myself if this had happened.”
Justified controversy or not, “First They Killed My Father” is going to have a pretty quick roll out these next couple of months. The movie will play at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and is scheduled to hit Netflix on September 15.
What do you guys think? Will you be checking out the Khmer-language film when it hits the streaming service? Let us know in the comments below!
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