‘First They Killed My Father’ is a Netflix original film, directed by Angelina Jolie. The film is based on the autobiography of Loung Ung, a young girl during the Khmer Rouges rein over Cambodia in 1975.
The film uses Cambodian actors who speak the Khmer language. Director Angelia Jolie has stated, the film was made for the Cambodian people and the choice to utilize the Khmer language makes for a more authentic experience. The film is positioned from the perspective of Loung whose family is forced out of their home and sent to labour camps.
The film is shot at a slow pace as it follows the experiences of Loung Ung. The film often jumps to point of view shots and the audience sees the atrocities of the labour camps through Loung’s eyes.
The large sets and multitudes of extras, which are present in almost every shot, do not overshadow the story. Jolie succeeds in creating a richly intimate film on a large epic scale. The ability to create a detailed background whilst keeping the protagonist as the central focus is an amazing feat which works in the film’s favour.
The lack of a formulaic structure, ever present in Hollywood films, coupled with a running time of over 2 hours gives the film a documentary feel. Jolie aimed to create a film truer to life instead of following the well-known beats in war films and she has achieved this goal.
Although creating an action heavy war film wasn’t Jolie’s intention, the film could have used a good edit. The film is full of beautiful scenic shots of Cambodia as well as many close-up and extreme close-ups of people working in the camp, cutting down on these would have made for a tighter film.
‘First they Killed My Father’ is well worth a watch. It tackles a subject matter often forgotten and left in the shadow of the Vietnam war. With two other films under her belt Angelina Jolie is well on her way to becoming a prominent Hollywood director. Making films such as ‘Unbroken’ and ‘First They Killed my Father’ (let’s ignore By the Sea) proves she can control films on an epic scale and still convey a personal story. Perhaps we have another Katherine Bigelow or Patty Jenkins in the making!
Streaming on Netflix Now!