Angelina Jolie Says She Hopes Cambodians Feel Pride, Not 'Hatred' in Being the Subject of Her Film
With the release of her film First They Killed My Father on the horizon, Angelina Jolie hopes that by shedding light on the genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge communist party’s regime, the Cambodian people will take pride in what they survived instead of feeling hatred or resentment for what the country endured in the late 1970s.
“I hope this doesn’t bring up hatred. I hope this doesn’t bring up blame,” Jolie tells the BBC in a behind-the-scenes special produced by the British TV network about the genocide and the making of her film that aired on Sunday. “I hope the people of this country are proud when they see it, because they see what they’ve survived.”
In February, Jolie made her first official appearance since her split from Brad Pitt when she attended a premiere for her film in Cambodia. She was joined by all of her children at the event and was interviewed by the BBC.
Jolie’s film is based on the autobiography of Cambodian human rights activist and friend of Jolie’s Loung Ung, and tells the story of the devastation inflicted on the southeast Asian nation by the Khmer Rouge. More than 2 million people out of a total population of 7 million were killed during the purge, including Ung’s father, mother and two sisters.
“I thought, ‘What story do I feel is really important to tell?’ ” Jolie says in the special of how the passion project came to be. “I felt this war that happened 40 years ago and what happened to these people was not properly understood. And not just for the world, but for the people of the country. I wanted them to be able to reflect on it in a way that they could absorb.”
The BBC special covers the scope of what led to the human rights tragedy and also sheds light on the lasting effect it has had on Cambodians — many of whom still suffer from survivor’s guilt.
In addition to the featured interview with Jolie, the BBC also interviewed survivors to speak to what they endured, including one man who was beaten daily but kept alive because he was a mechanic. The BBC follows him as he returns to his cell for the first time. The network also interviewed one of the interrogators for the Khmer Rouge and note the startling historical fact that only four people were ever prosecuted for the genocide — people who worked with the regime were not arrested, only the top officials.
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“I hope the people of this country are proud when they see it, because they see what they survived,” says Jolie of her film. “And I hope it sheds light on what it is to be Cambodian, and the beauty and love of the family.”
Jolie’s connection to Cambodia began during the filming of Tomb Raider in 2000, and grew when she returned as a volunteer for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR (for which she is now a special envoy), and was further cemented when she adopted her first child, Maddox, from a Battambang orphanage in 2002.
First They Killed My Father will premiere on Netflix later this year.