First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

By Dan Clendenin

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First They Killed My Father (2017) — Cambodia

This historical drama follows the fate of a five-year-old girl named Loung Ung during the Cambodian genocide under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 that killed upwards of three million people (out of a population of seven million). Angelina Jolie directed the film, and co-wrote the script with Ung, based upon the latter’s memoir of the same title. The movie debuted at the Telluride and Toronto festivals, and was Cambodia’s entry for Best Foreign Film. The story opens with the evacuation of Phnom Penh, and a long march to a re-education camp, where people are given new haircuts, clothes, and family. “Angkar (the Communist Party) is now your mother and father! Angkar always knows what’s best for you! Angkar is your all powerful savior and liberator!” Like millions of other citizens at that time, the Khmer Rouge forced Ung to become a child soldier, and sent her siblings to labor camps. The film is in the Khmer language, with English subtitles, and available for streaming at Netflix. For two other films on the Cambodian genocide, see The Killing Fields (1984) and Enemies of the People (2009).

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