Angelina Jolie Pitt will direct an adaptation of ‘First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers,’ a harrowing and poignant memoir from Cambodian author and human rights activist Loung Ung about surviving the deadly Khmer Rouge regime.
Jolie Pitt will direct and produce the Netflix Original Film from a script she co-adapted with Ung. Acclaimed Cambodian director and producer Rithy Panh, director of the Oscar-nominated Best Foreign Language film ‘The Missing Picture,’ will also be a producer.
Ung was five years old when the Khmer Rouge assumed power over Cambodia in 1975 and began a four-year reign of terror and genocide in which nearly two million Cambodians died. Forced from her family’s home in Phnom Penh, Ung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans while her six siblings were sent to labor camps. Ung survived and wrote First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, which was first published in 2000. Jolie Pitt read the book and contacted Ung over a decade ago and they became close friends. Together they adapted the book into a screenplay.
“I was deeply affected by Loung’s book,” said Jolie Pitt in a statement. “It deepened forever my understanding of how children experience war and are affected by the emotional memory of it. And it helped me draw closer still to the people of Cambodia, my son’s homeland.” She added, “It is a dream come true to be able to adapt this book for the screen, and I’m honoured to work alongside Loung and filmmaker Rithy Panh.”
Jolie Pitt’s Cambodian-born son, Maddox, will also be involved in the production of the film.
Netflix’s global reach was a major factor in Jolie Pitt’s desire to partner with the streaming service. “Films like this are hard to watch but important to see,” said Jolie Pitt. “They are also hard to get made. Netflix is making this possible, and I am looking forward to working with them and excited that the film will reach so many people.”
The film will be released in both Khmer and English and made available to members of Netflix in late 2016 and will be submitted to major international festivals.
‘First They Killed My Father’ will begin production later this year in Cambodia and will precede Jolie Pitt’s filming of ‘Africa’ which focuses on paleo-anthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey’s decades-long fight to save Africa from the illegal wildlife trade.