Sunday, January 7, 2018

First They Killed My Father

Movie Name: First They Killed My Father
Year of Release: 2017
Director: Angelina Jolie
Stars: Sareum Srey Moch, Phoeung Kompheak, Sveng Socheata, Mun Kimhak, Heng Dara, Khoun Sothea, Sarun Nika, Run Malyna
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
View Trailer

Following her little seen "By the Sea", director Angelina Jolie returns, with a subject matter that is closer to her previous directorial efforts and subject matters (such as "In the Land of Blood and Honey" and "Unbroken"). The film is an adaptation of a book by Loung Ung, one that traces her childhood in Cambodia, as the country was ravaged by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. The film introduces us to Loung, who is 7 and who suddenly sees herself taken alongside her family, from the cities to work camps. While there, she witnesses the progressive deterioration of the quality of life of her family (including her parents and six siblings). She eventually gets isolated from her family and goes through the harshness of labor camp, and is trained as a child soldier. Things take a turn when the Vietnamese army invades the country and deposes the Khmer Rouge regime, allowing her and her reunited siblings to find solace in refugee camps.
Angelina Jolie has thus far in her career, mostly focused on stories that have a backdrop of extreme situations of war, famine and destruction, as vehicles to demonstrate the sheer bravura and resilience of the human spirit. "First They Killed My Father" may be her best feature yet: it's a film that anchors itself in the point of view of a child, and how her witnessing the destruction of all that was familiar to herself, though horrifying and shattering, still kept her going in the hopes of finding a semblance of family. It's a film that again marries her point of view of documenting the destruction and arrowing effects of war, with the beauty that surrounds everyone, particularly in this case, the young central character. The film is simultaneously brutal in its depiction of violence, and aesthetically stunning, capturing the natural beauty of Cambodia (thanks to fantastic cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle). A good film, worth watching.