All About Angelina Jolie's Connection to Cambodia That Led to Her Golden Globe Nominated Film

Angelina Jolie has a strong connection to Cambodia, the country of inspiration behind her Golden Globe nominated movie

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Photo: Omar Havana/Getty Images

Angelina Jolie has a strong connection to Cambodia, the country that inspired her to make her Golden Globe nominated movie, First They Killed My Father.

Based on Cambodia human rights activist Luong Ung’s memoir, First They Killed My Father documents her experience as a young girl under the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge.

The actress’ history with the country began in 2000 when she filmed the hit Tomb Raider on location and later returned two years later to adopt her first child, Maddox. 17 years later, Jolie, 41, has introduced the rest of her brood to the South Asian country nestled between Vietnam and Thailand through her Netflix passion project, which is up for the best foreign language film award at Sunday’s Golden Globe.

“We’ve been coming back and forth for 17 years, it feels like a second home to me,” Jolie told reporters at a press conference the day before the film’s Cambodia premiere where she stepped out with the whole family. “The children have close ties to the children here, many of them are their best friends. Maddox is happy to be back in his country.”

Jolie fell in love with Cambodia while filming her role as Lara Croft role in Tomb Raider. She found the poverty-stricken country still recovering from the genocide inflicted by the Khmer Rouge regime, which led to the deaths of nearly a quarter of the population from 1975 to 1979. The group was active until 1999, and the war tribunals started in 2009 are ongoing.

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A still from the movie shot by Angelina Jolie’s son, Pax Jolie-Pitt.

Despite the terror endured by average Cambodians, Jolie recently told Vanity Fair of her first visit, “I found a people who were so kind and warm and open, and, yes, very complex. You drive around here you can see a lot of people with many things, but not often expressing happiness. You go there, and you see the families come out with their blanket and their picnic to watch a sunset.”

The Netflix movie, directed by Jolie, was shot on location with Maddox, 15, and Pax, 13, working on the production and their siblings — Zahara, 11, Shiloh, 10, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 8 — joining the family during filming.

It was an especially personal shoot for Maddox as he helped research the devastation inflicted on Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge communist party in the 1970s that killed nearly 2 million people in a population of 7 million. “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.”

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Angelina Jolie with son Maddox Jolie-Pitt and book author Loung Ung on set of First They Killed My Father. Pax Jolie-Pitt/Netflix

Shortly before its release the actress expressed hope 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 told 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.”

The 2018 Golden Globes are set to air Sunday, January 7, on NBC at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PST. First They Killed My Father is available to watch on Netflix.

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