First They Killed My Father (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
First They Killed My Father
Film poster
Directed byAngelina Jolie
Screenplay by
Based onFirst They Killed My Father
by Loung Ung
Produced by
  • Sreymoch Sareum
  • Kompheak Phoeung
  • Socheata Sveng
  • Dara Heng
  • Kimhak Mun
CinematographyAnthony Dod Mantle
Edited by
  • Xavier Box
  • Patricia Rommel
Music byMarco Beltrami
Jolie Pas
Distributed byNetflix
Release dates
  • February 18, 2017 (2017-02-18) (Siem Reap)
  • September 15, 2017 (2017-09-15) (United States)
Running time
136 minutes[3]
  • Khmer[4]
  • English
  • French
  • Vietnamese
Budget$22 million[5]

First They Killed My Father (Khmer: មុនដំបូងខ្មែរក្រហមសម្លាប់ប៉ារបស់ខ្ញុំ, Mŭn Dâmbong Khmêr Krâhâm Sâmloăb Pa Rôbás Khnhŭm; lit.'First The Khmer Rouge Killed My Father') is a 2017 Cambodian–American Khmer-language biographical historical thriller film directed by Angelina Jolie and written by Jolie and Loung Ung. The film is based on Ung's eponymous memoir. Set in 1975, the film depicts 5-year-old Loung, who is forced to train as a child soldier while her siblings are sent to labor camps during the Khmer Rouge regime.

The film screened at the Telluride Film Festival and 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, and was released worldwide on Netflix on September 15, 2017, to positive critical reception.


In 1975 Khmer Republic, Loung Ung is the five-year-old daughter of an officer of the Khmer National Armed Forces, known as "Pa" to his seven children. During the Vietnam War, the fighting spills over into neighboring Cambodia when the United States military begins bombing North Vietnamese forces attempting to shelter in the neutral territory, commencing the Cambodian Civil War. The U.S. then pulls out of Cambodia and evacuates its embassy.

The Khmer Rouge draws closer and captures Phnom Penh, then forces all families to leave the city as refugees, under the pretext that it will be bombed by Americans. Pa Ung denies working for the government when questioned by the Khmer Rouge soldiers, knowing that he will be killed if discovered. The family is found by "Uncle" (Loung's maternal uncle), Pa's brother-in-law, and Loung's family stays with Uncle's family for some time. However, at the insistence of Aunt, who fears the consequences if Pa's identity is discovered, Loung's family has to leave.

After days of travel they are captured by Khmer Rouge soldiers and taken with other refugees to a labor camp, where they have to build their own shelter and are forced to work under harsh conditions. Their possessions are confiscated, food is scarce as all crops are sent to fighting units, and any attempt to get more food is punished with merciless beatings. Loung is a witness to her siblings' merciless beatings as they try to get more food for themselves and their family.

Aside from hard work, the camp preaches the regime propaganda, and any foreign items (including life-saving medicine) are forbidden and carry a death penalty. Loung's two oldest brothers and oldest sister Keav are reassigned to other camps, and soon afterward Keav dies from dysentery.

One day Loung sees Pa taken away by the Khmer Rouge officials to repair a bridge. Knowing what awaits him, he says goodbye to his wife and children. Later on, Loung has a nightmare in which she sees him executed and buried in a mass grave. Soon afterward, Ma tells Loung, her older brother Kim, and her older sister Chou to flee in different directions and seek new working camps under false identities as orphans. Loung and her sister separate from their brother and reach another camp.

There, Loung is recruited to be a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese have come to rescue Cambodia from Khmer Rouge. Loung learns hand-to-hand combat, shooting, and preparation of traps, and works on laying mine fields against the Vietnamese. Children are constantly taught propaganda and bitter hatred of the Vietnamese, but they get more food and are treated better than workers in the labor camps. One day Loung gets a pass to visit her sister in the labor camp, but instead she travels to the camp where her mother and youngest sister were left behind. She finds their hut empty, and an old woman tells her that her family was taken away by the Khmer Rouge soldiers. That night Loung dreams about her mother lying dead in a mass grave with her youngest sister Geak being executed.

Loung's camp is destroyed by Vietnamese shelling, forcing her to flee along with other civilians. On the road she reunites with Chou and Kim who stay for a night in a temporary refugee camp managed by Vietnamese troops, where the siblings join a group of children. As the camp is attacked by Khmer Rouge forces the next morning, they slip behind the defending Vietnamese to escape the fighting into jungle, where Loung is separated from her siblings and witnesses other refugees killed and maimed by the mines that she herself helped set.

The three siblings are reunited in another refugee camp that is run by the Red Cross. There Loung sees people executing a captured Khmer Rouge soldier. She sees him as her father and flashes back to the violence in her life. As the war ends, Loung along with her siblings Kim and Chou are reunited with their older brothers who also survived the camps. The movie ends with all the children in present time, praying with the monks for their lost family members in the ruins of a Buddhist temple.


  • Sreymoch Sareum as Young Loung Ung
  • Kompheak Phoeung as Pa Ung
  • Socheta Sveng as Ma
  • Mun Kimhak as Kim
  • Run Malina as Chou
  • Sreyneang Oun as Keav
  • Tep Rindaro as Lon Non
  • Horm Chhora
  • Dy Sonita
  • Loung Ung as herself
  • Tharoth Sam as child soldier leader

The film's cast is almost entirely Cambodian actors and its dialogue is almost entirely in the Khmer language.


On July 23, 2015, it was announced that Angelina Jolie would direct a film adaptation of the memoir First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung for Netflix, for which Jolie and Ung co-wrote the script.[6] Jolie would also produce the film along with Rithy Panh, while Jolie's son Maddox Jolie-Pitt would be an executive producer.[6]


Principal photography on the film began in early November 2015 in Siem Reap and wrapped in February 2016 in Battambang, Cambodia. Filming also took place in Phnom Penh.[7]


Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 65 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "First They Killed My Father tackles its subject matter with grace, skill, and empathy, offering a ground-level look at historic atrocities that resonates beyond its story's borders."[8] Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[9]

Matt Zoller Seitz of gave the film four out of four stars, stating that it was Jolie's best work as a director yet, made without any compromise to its "journalistic" storytelling. He noted that "[t]he ace in Jolie's deck here is the knowledge that a girl as young as Loung can't comprehend the larger meaning of what's happening to her, and is therefore unlikely to expend precious emotional energy connecting cause-and-effect dots or lamenting what was lost. It's an almost entirely experiential movie."[10] He later named it the second best film of the year, behind Lucky, stating that it is "[o]ne of the greatest films about war ever made, as well as one of the best films about childhood.... I can't imagine a frame of this film being better, only different."[11]


The film was selected as the Cambodian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 90th Academy Awards, but it was not nominated.[12] It was the first time a prominent American director's non-English film was submitted since the Academy set a rule in 1984 that a country's submission has "artistic control" from a "creative talent of that country"; Jolie has dual citizenship with the U.S. and Cambodia.[13]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref.
British Academy Film Awards 18 February 2018 Best Film Not in the English Language Angelina Jolie Nominated [14]
Camerimage 11—18 November 2017 Bronze Frog Anthony Dod Mantle Won [15]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards 11 January 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Angelina Jolie Nominated [16]
Golden Globe Awards 7 January 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Nominated [17]
Hollywood Film Awards 5 November 2017 Hollywood Foreign Language Film Award Loung Ung, Angelina Jolie Won [18]
National Board of Review 28 November 2017 Freedom of Expression Award Angelina Jolie Won [19]
Online Film Critics Society 28 December 2017 Best Foreign Language Film Nominated [20]
Satellite Awards 10 February 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Nominated [21]
Women's Image Network Awards February 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Nominated [22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Debruge, Peter (3 September 2017). "Telluride Film Review: 'First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers'". Variety. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  2. ^ Hunter, Allan (13 September 2017). "'First They Killed My Father': Toronto Review". ScreenDaily. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  3. ^ Craddock, Kerri (September 2017). "First They Killed My Father". Archived from the original on 28 September 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  4. ^ Sims, David (15 September 2017). "First They Killed My Father Is a Surprising, Devastating Triumph". The Atlantic. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Angelina Jolie Still Breaks the Rules: Why 'First They Killed My Father' is the Movie No Studio Would Make". 18 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b Patten, Dominic (23 July 2015). "Angelina Jolie To Helm 'First They Killed My Father' As A Netflix Original Pic". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  7. ^ Lew, Josh (9 November 2015). "Angelina Jolie to Start Filming in Cambodia's Biggest Tourist Attraction". TravelPulse.
  8. ^ "First They Killed My Father (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  9. ^ "First They Killed My Father reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  10. ^ Seitz, Matt Zoller (15 September 2017). "First They Killed My Father Movie Review (2017)". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  11. ^ "The Individual Top Tens of 2017". Ebert Digital LLC. 14 December 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  12. ^ Frater, Patrick (18 September 2017). "Cambodia Sets Angelina Jolie's 'Father' as Oscar Contender". Variety. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  13. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (1 December 2017). "Oscars 2018: Weighing The Early Best Foreign Language Film Race". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  14. ^ "Bafta Film Awards 2018: All the nominees". BBC News. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  15. ^ "CAMERIMAGE 2017 WINNERS!". Camerimage. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  16. ^ Kilday, Gregg (6 December 2017). "Critics' Choice Awards: 'The Shape of Water' Leads With 14 Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media, LLC. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  17. ^ Maglio, Tony (11 December 2017). "Golden Globes 2018: The Complete List of Nominees". The Wrap. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  18. ^ Hammond, Pete (5 November 2017). "Hollywood Film Awards Steers Away From Scandal And Keeps Its Eye On The Prizes To Winslet, Gyllenhaal, Oldman And More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  19. ^ "2017 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  20. ^ Staff (28 December 2017). "Get Out Wins Big at Online Film Critics Society Awards". Den of Geek. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  21. ^ Pond, Steve (29 November 2017). "'Dunkirk,' 'The Shape of Water' Lead Satellite Award Nominations". The Wrap. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  22. ^ "Women's Image Network announces its 19th Women's Image Awards Film and Television Nominees". Women's Image Network. 10 November 2017. Archived from the original on 6 December 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2017.

External links[edit]