First They Killed My Father: A Daughter Of Cambodia Remembers

Watched: 19 September

The daughter of Cambodia referred to in this film’s title is Loung Ung, a former child soldier who lost her parents and ended up being separated from her siblings during Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Ung has adapted her own autobiography First They Killed Their Father for this small screen release, and the film has been co-written and directed by Angelina Jolie; made by Netflix, comparisons with Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts Of No Nation, another film released by the platform that told the story of child soldiers from the point of view of a young protagonist, are somewhat inevitable, and Jolie’s film is certainly underpinned by as much empathy for the children as Fukanaga’s (though admittedly that really should be a given). Keeping the camera low to show the audience the seven-year-old Loung’s perspective, Jolie gets good performances out of her mostly-young cast, with star Sreymoch Sareum impressing the most. There seems to me a good feel for time and place, too, though I’m really basing this on just a couple of other films I’ve seen set during the same period. There are slight issues with the pace – it drags a little in the middle – but it’s an improvement on the uneven Unbroken and I expect it’ll last longer in the memory than that earlier effort. (***½)

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