Loung Ung’s fascinating yet horrific book about her survival of the brutal and sick Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, First They Killed My Father, has finally become a movie.
I really have to hand it to Angelina Jolie. I don’t know her personally, so I’m not shilling, but she’s someone who became a goodwill ambassador to the UN awhile back, which, by the way, was also chronicled in her fascinating book, Notes from my Travels. She has been raising awareness of the problems in nations like Cambodia ever since.
So it was no surprise when I read the good news online that First They Killed My Father was being made into a movie and that Angelina Jolie was producing it.
The movie follows the story of Loung Ung, age five in 1975 at the beginning, whose happy life with her military man father, mother and several loving siblings in Cambodia is completely disrupted, then destroyed, by the Khmer Rouge takeover of the country. It’s brilliantly done by showing the bizarre story unfold through Loung’s young and disbelieving eyes.
Wait. Let me amend that. Loung is hardly the only one who cannot make sense of what went on when the Khmer Rouge took over. Neither could the adults who were there at the time, let alone all those of us who weren’t there, thank God, and only heard about the insane events later.
Loung’s gentle father is not the only one the rogue Rouge regime kills. A quarter of the population of Cambodia did not survive the Khmer Rouge’s psycho system of starving, overworking, and outright murdering anyone who didn’t appear to be in line with their “revolutionary” philosophy, whether they be from the military, educated, in the upper classes, etc. As seems to be the norm with a lot of the more brutal regimes of the Twentieth Century, this one was obsessed with making everyone into “equals.” It never works, but those who want it to can go pretty crazy with their ideas of implementation. The Khmer Rouge went more berserk with that “equality” crap than most. The entire population becomes enslaved by the Khmer Rouge, who have guns pointed at them as they force them to give up their homes, possessions, former lives, and so on, putting them to work in work camps. Question, though: how “equal” can people be if one group has guns on the other, then forces them to do all the work?
Sareum Srey Moch does a spectacular job at playing Loung Ung, a child fed with more propaganda than food who somehow manages to hold onto her humanity in spite of every insane thing that is happening around her. This is a performance worthy of an award, and so is Angelina Jolie’s vivid direction. As many times as someone can read about the Khmer Rouge’s takeover of their own beleaguered nation, seeing it played out on the screen packs a wallop.
Get the movie, folks. It’s on Netflix. You can see the trailer here: