First They Killed My Father: Netflix Brings the Horrors of the Cambodian Genocide to Your Screen

Published August 3rd, 2017 - 09:31 GMT
From the film. (Netflix)
From the film. (Netflix)

Netflix has released a trailer from its upcoming drama about Cambodia, First They Killed My Father.

The film is based off of Loung Ung’s memoir; Ung is also a co-screenwriter on the film. The clip shows actress Srey Moch, playing Ung, try to escape genocide by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, as well as the lives of child soldiers.

The drama is being produced by Cambodian documentary filmmaker Rithy Panh. Angelina Jolie directs and co-writes.

The film is the latest in a string of American films showcasing horrors of war instigated by Americans themselves. (Consider: when was the last time you saw a Vietnam war movie, or an Iraqi war movie, from Vietnamese or Iraqi filmmakers?)

In 1969, United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger masterminded a secret bombing campaign against Cambodia, a neutral country in the Vietnam War; this meant that the United States dropped one million tons more bombs against Cambodia than it had against Japan in WWII, destroying the country. The civil unrest which followed allowed the rise of the Khmer Rouge and resulted in the Killing Fields—the murder of an estimated two million Cambodians, almost a quarter of the country’s population.

In his book A Cook’s Tour, Anthony Bourdain discussed his visit to Cambodia: “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević. While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls & remaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg.”

Cambodia has yet to recover; Henry Kissinger has never been taken to trial for his crimes.

As such, it is a little gratifying, for once, to see an American filmmaker work with Cambodians to tell a story that is Cambodians' to tell. Good on you, Angelina Jolie, and good on Netflix for being brave enough to make this drama.

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