Angelina Jolie looked dazzling in hot pink when she attended the opening ceremony for her new film First They Killed My Father, in Cambodia on Saturday.
Dressed in a floor-length bright gown, Jolie, 41, shared a special moment with King Norodom Sihamoni, who presented her with a bouquet of flowers.
The ceremony (and the costume change for Jolie) came hours after she was joined by her children — Maddox, 15, Pax, 13, Zahara, 11, Shiloh, 10, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 8 — for the Cambodian premiere of First They Killed My Father at the Terrace of the Elephant in the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex.
During the premiere, Jolie and her children spoke to the audience, with the actress-director referencing the deep connection she has felt with the country.
“I cannot find words to express what it means to me that I was entrusted with telling part of the story of this country,” she said. “This film was not made to focus on the horrors of the past, but to celebrate the resilience, kindness and talent of the Cambodian people.
“Most of all, this film is my way of saying thank you to Cambodia,” she continued. “Without Cambodia I may never have become a mother. Part of my heart is and will always be in this country. And part of this country is always with me: Maddox.”
Maddox himself took center stage when he spoke to audience, saying:
“Thank you everyone for attending tonight. We finally made it. It’s a great honor to present this film to all of you, and to stand by my mother and my family. And now I’d like to introduce my little sister Shiloh, as she has something to say.”
Little Shiloh then stepped up to the microphone and told the crowd in Khmer: “My name is Shiloh and I love Cambodia.”
The Jolie-Pitt children were also on-hand to meet with King Norodom Sihamoni at the premiere.
At the press conference, Jolie said she thinks of Cambodia “like a second home,” adding, “Maddox is happy to be back in his country.”
Based on the autobiography of the same name by Cambodian human-rights activist Loung Ung, a friend of Jolie’s, First They Killed My Father tells the true story of the devastation inflicted on Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge communist party in the 1970s.
“I read Loung’s book many years ago,” Jolie said at the press conference. “It helped to open my eyes to what was going on the world.”
She added, “I wanted to tell the story to through the eyes of the child’s point of view, the love of a family, to show the beauty of the country and understand what Maddox’s parents may have gone through.”
More than two million people, out of a total population of seven million, were killed during the purge, including Ung’s father, mother and two sisters. “The heart of it is Loung’s story, it’s the story of a war through the eyes of a child, but it is also the story of a country,” Jolie said in a promotional clip for the film.
Jolie used only Cambodian actors, many of whom are the survivors or children of the survivors of the genocide. In addition, Jolie insisted only their native Khmer be spoken throughout the film. Jolie, Ung and the producers hoped the experience of making the film would be cathartic for those who participated.
The actress’s love affair with Cambodia began after she filmed Tomb Raider in the country in 2000. Not long after she was finished with production, she returned to Cambodia as a volunteer for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, for which she is now a special envoy. In 2002, Jolie adopted her first child, Maddox, from a Battambang orphanage.
“He was the one who just called it and said he was ready and that he wanted to work on it, which he did,” Jolie recently told The Guardian of Maddox’s role in the film. “He read the script, helped with notes, and was in the production meetings.”
Jolie’s second-oldest son, Pax, was also involved in the production. In 2015, Jolie told PEOPLE, “Pax is doing a lot of the stills,” adding, “The whole movie is from a child’s point of view.”
First They Killed My Father will be released globally via Netflix later this year.
- with reporting by MARY GREEN and HELEN REGAN