It’s official: Angelina Jolie’s fourth film as a director, First They Killed My Father, is Cambodia’s submission for the best foreign-language film Oscar at the 90th Academy Awards.
“This means a great deal to all of us involved in making the film,” Jolie said in a statement in response to the news. “To work with local artists to bring this story forward has been a moving and humbling experience,” she added.
First They Killed My Father was fully financed and produced by Netflix. The film is an adaptation of a memoir by Cambodian writer Loung Ung about her childhood experience of surviving the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Untrained child actor Sareum Srey Moch has won rave reviews for her portrayal of the lead.
The Cambodia Oscar Selection Committee announced its pick Monday, saying: “First They Killed My Father explores a tragic period of history through the eyes of a child. Dialogue is at a minimum and it works well with the story told through intense cinematic images. Committee members as well as the Khmer community found the film to be cathartic, as it brought back memories often best forgotten.”
First They Killed My Father is currently screening theatrically at all major cinemas in Cambodia. Despite Netflix’s notoriety for eschewing the big screen, it’s understood that Jolie, who holds dual citizenship with Cambodia and adopted one of her children from there, felt it was important that the movie be made widely available in the country. “We’re making this first and foremost for Cambodia,” she said during the film’s U.S. premiere at Telluride last week.
“We were together when we received the news and it was very emotional,” Ung, who also served as co-writer and executive producer of the film, said of the announcement. “This has been a long journey for me, and while it is personal, it is also reflective of the experience of millions of Cambodians. We are very proud to be representing Cambodia as this year’s selection and share this moment with the country.”
First They Killed My Father was also co-produced by Cambodian auteur and previous Oscar nominee Rithy Panh (The Missing Picture), whose Phnom Penh-based company Bophana Production supplied production services to the project. The Missing Picture is the only Cambodian film ever be nominated for the foreign-language film Oscar.
“I am very happy and very proud,” said Panh. “Because the film is original and powerful. Because thousands of us participated in the film’s making and so, too, in writing a chapter of Cambodia’s collective history. And because this history doesn’t belong only to the Cambodia people; it is universal. Cinema also is a way to talk about the resilience and dignity of human beings.”