Angelina Jolie hopes Cambodians feel ‘proud’ when they see her new film

Angelina Jolie is still giving exclusives to the BBC. The BBC was the first outlet to get Angelina on the record and on-camera after the divorce and custody issues which started last fall. At the time, I thought it was a good move – the BBC provides international news and it’s not a People Magazine-esque gossip outlet. Even though the BBC asked Angelina about personal stuff, the entire interview was framed from a newsy standpoint, as Angelina was in Cambodia to promote her film about the the Khmer Rouge, First They Killed My Father. As it turns out, the BBC did a “behind-the-scenes special produced by the British TV network about the genocide and the making of her film that aired on Sunday.” The behind-the-scenes special included new quotes from Angelina.

What Jolie hopes her film accomplishes: “I hope this doesn’t bring up hatred. I hope this doesn’t bring up blame. I hope the people of this country are proud when they see it, because they see what they’ve survived.”

Why she decided to make this film: “I thought, ‘What story do I feel is really important to tell?’ I felt this war that happened 40 years ago and what happened to these people was not properly understood. And not just for the world, but for the people of the country. I wanted them to be able to reflect on it in a way that they could absorb.”

She hopes Cambodians are proud: “I hope the people of this country are proud when they see it, because they see what they survived. And I hope it sheds light on what it is to be Cambodian, and the beauty and love of the family.”

[From People]

The film will air on Netflix later this year, which I think is probably the best platform for this kind of downer film. I mean, lots of films are downers (hello, Manchester by the Sea), but if people have the Netflix-premiere option, I think more people will choose to watch it from the comfort of their homes, because very few people would choose to see this in a movie theater. It reminds me a bit of Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation, another Netflix movie which was a complete downer. The reason people watched it was because they could watch it at home. Meanwhile, Brad Pitt has his own Netflix movie coming out – War Machine. Netflix is going to have to really balance the promotional tours for the Jolie-Pitts, right?

Newsweek also did a good piece on Angelina and the film – go here to read.

Photos courtesy of Getty.

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49 Responses to “Angelina Jolie hopes Cambodians feel ‘proud’ when they see her new film”

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  1. Daisy says:

    The movie looks really good.

    Her first movie was really well accepted in Bosnia too, wasn’t it?

    • LuckyZeGrand says:

      As a Bosnian I have to say she did her best to be inclusive and authentic about what we went through while still trying to tell an original story.
      It wasn’t the best Bosnian war movie I’ve seen (the level of local talent is staggering) but it felt real to me and I’m sure she’s going to achieve the same thing with First They Killed My Father.

      • Kata says:

        Usually when Americans make movies about the Balkans they portray everyone like savages who fight for no reason and need the good Westerners to save them. This didn’t feel like that.

    • Ari says:

      It does look so good!

  2. paolanqar says:

    Hopefully this film will reach bigger platforms but I’m not sure how many people will watch it outside of that specific reality. She would deserve all the attention for this film and for bringin attention to this specific matter.

    • Olga says:

      I don’t think many people (except her fans) outside of Cambodia will watch the the movie because for one reason – the movie is with subtitles and many people are too lazy to read them. I know some people who said they want to watch this or that but they didn’t watch it then because it was subtitled.

      • Maya says:

        I am not sure but I think they made the movie both in Cambodian language but also in English.

        But you are right – many people won’t see movies with subtitles.

        I personally try though as there are lots of non English movies which are amazing.

      • Olga says:


        I always watch Animes with subtitles, I can’t stand the dubbed versions.

      • paolanqar says:

        I am not a native English speaker and I grew up watching films in their original language with either English, German or Italian subtitles.
        I think it’s just a habit.. I can’t stand dubbed movies and 80% of an actor’s talent is in their voice so I refuse to watch anything that is dubbed.

      • Olga says:


        Yeah, I’m also not a fan of dubbed movies/shows/etc., I always use English or German subtitles.

      • crogirl says:

        I agree with Paolanquar. I am from Croatia and here all movies are with subtitles. It’s interesting to hear different languages.

    • JaneofNarnia says:

      How can the success of a Netflix movie be measured? With the amount of people who watch it?

      • paolanqar says:

        I guess Netflix owners can easily measure exactly how many times a file is accessed or how many stars people mark for it to gauge viewer interest but how exactly it makes a difference in terms of an original work being considered successful, especially in terms of income for the site I have no idea.
        Ater all viewers pay a flat monthly fee for access to the content, so technically Netflix does not make any more money from viewers seeing their original material than viewing only TV content produced decades earlier but I guess the purpose of the original content is to lure in more subscribers.
        And the more subscribers they have the more the channell is successful aka marketable.

      • slowsnow says:

        I guess it’s the same for Itunes downloads. But with the difference that with Netflix you can see if the person’s watched it whole or not or if he or she watched it several times. It’s computerised.

      • Bridget says:

        That’s an interesting question and one I’ve wondered myself. Subscribers pay the same monthly fee whether they watch it once, ten times, or never. There aren’t additional revenue streams to be made with dvds/downloads – so it’s content that’s both being watched and that drives new subscribers to the service.

    • slowsnow says:

      Exactly. If we refused to watch films without subtitles in my country, we would have been stuck with 50’s films. And yes, what about the actor’s voice?

      And does this mean that English speaking people only watch English speaking films??? I cannot believe that.

      • paolanqar says:

        I think this is why non native English speakers are more prone to learn other languages in addition to their own. My language is sadly only spoken in my country and if I had to rely on that only I would probably still live in the 30s!!

      • crogirl says:

        “And does this mean that English speaking people only watch English speaking films??? I cannot believe that.”

        It’s not just English speaking people. Here in Croatia I watch a lot of italian channels and they dub absolutely everything, sometimes they even change the characters names.

      • paolanqar says:

        i am Italian and it drives me up the wall that every film/show/program is dubbed.. Not only character’s name are changed but also, very often, the title of a film changing its meaning completely!
        And this is why italian people don’t speak english or sound like Super MArio when they do!

      • crogirl says:

        I know, it’s the same in Spain.

      • Anna says:

        Actually, it’s true. The average American (U.S.) will only watch English and often seems to be quite adamant and fussy about it. It’s spoiled and entitled and imperialist but true. The rest of the world is used to subtitles but not here.

    • neil says:

      Rarely do I prefer a dubbed version of a movie over a subtitled one and I’m not a fast reader. Yes, there are people who don’t like subtitles but there many who are actually rather snobbish about subtitled movies, equating them with quality/art. Me, I just like hearing the cadence and sound of a movie’s original language and I am sure there are many like me. This isn’t the 50’s and as many people know it doesn’t take long before you forget you are watching them and have a richer movie watching experience for it. I look forward to hearing Kmer; its cadence, its intonations, and of course its expressions of emotion.

  3. Daisy says:

    Let’s not get carried away now. I’m sure Cambodians were able to talk about it before an American actress showed up.

    • Maya says:

      Some Cambodian people have said it on camera – it’s on YouTube.

    • Myrto says:

      Thank you. I think her comments are completely patronizing and I’m surprised nobody is talking about that. Is it because it’s Angelina Jolie? There have been movies and books about the Cambodian genocide, made by actual Cambodians. Why not talk about them? Rithy Panh is an acclaimed Cambodian director whose entire family was killed during the genocide. His entire filmography is about the genocide (S-21, the missing picture). It’s not like he was waiting for Angelina Jolie to talk about the Khmers Rouges.

      • Joannie says:

        I think theyre patronizing as well.

      • neil says:

        You do realize the movie is telling the personal story of the author’s experience during the war and that the author and Angie have been friends for a very long time and that that friendship is based on their mutual passion and love of Cambodia and its people and their resilience and of course, human rights and justice. The author has unequivocally stated that she trusts Angie above anyone else to tell HER story. Maybe she knows something you don’t? Maybe she thinks Angie isn’t the patronizing foreigner you seem to think she is?

      • friend of says:

        Maybe she’s grateful to have her personal story told.

      • Lalu says:

        I thought her comments were odd too. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it probably but I saw where someone said the same about her last interview… So when I read this it sounded really pretentious.

      • Maya says:

        Well the answer to your comment has been given by Rithy Panh himself:

        We’re exposed to a lot of Angelina Jolie through magazines, but she’s a really cool person. She is a very good activist and has a very good conscience about how people live and fight. She is intelligent and wanted to make a movie about the country of her adopted child. Cambodia has changed your life in a certain way. When she asked me to help her produce the film, I said okay and we talked about this.

        When I make a movie maybe 10 people will watch. When Angelina makes a movie, thousands will see it and maybe they’ll be more curious and will read the book or watch my movie or something else.

      • Ophelia says:

        We know about the AJ Effect on films (Decoding Annie Parker benefited from Angelina’s BRCA op ed, for instance), we are not disputing that.

        What is unfortunate is her choice of words. For someone who has been in the field of diplomacy for so long, what she said sounded so condescending. As though the film industry in Cambodia was a Zero before she came along and saved them all. As though somehow Cambodians were not proud (have no pride?) before this film?

  4. Kali says:

    Have people forgotten ‘the killing fields’? Perhaps so, in which case it maybe time to bring it back into focus.

    • Pandy says:

      I’m betting her movie doesn’t measure up to The Killing Fields. Just a hunch.

      • neil says:

        How many movies do? Wasn’t that a nominated movie? At the same time this isn’t about competing. The subject is the same but the themes are different. We shall see; that movie was big, maybe even epic. This movie seems more specific, more intimate; perhaps even more… ethnic?

  5. Maya says:

    I think Brad’s movie is being released around May while Angelina’s is end of the year so don’t think there will be a clash.

    Plus both are professional enough to know that these movies are important and it’s a group effect.

    I read some amazing reviews from Cambodian people and saw a YouTube video where people who survived the genocide praised the movie and its authenticity.

    In fact several have said that the movie has made them more open to talk about the horrors they suffered and that the next generation will learn more about their history.

    I just love the fact that Angelina and Loung has been friends for so long and that Loung helped her with Maddox’s adoption.

    Hopefully soon Angelina will direct a movie about her other son Pax’s native country Vietnam. A story about Vietnam not seen by the Americans but by the Vietnamese people.

  6. lower-case deb says:

    this reminds me of Joshua Oppenheimer’s film the Act of Killing, to highlight the 1965 atrocities in Indonesia. until him, nobody who are native Indonesians dared to make a film about it. Oppenheimer’s Indonesian film crew and co-director was listed as Anonymii in the film credits to protect them from mortal threat.

    (speaking of whichs: would’ve liked a Cambodian director working alongside Angelina as a co-director too)

    Rithy Panh’s interview with Yalda Hakim he said that many people are reticent to talk about the past because of fear, but also because of shame. the same can be said in Indonesia, although it is too simplistic only to look at it in this way/from this angle.

    however i am sure the people of Cambodia talk about what happened if only because of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, where the victims have been fighting for their rights and dignity and continue to talk about it reminding people and persevering to take back justice. so i don’t think there was silence in between The Killing Fields film and FTKMF.

    by contrast no such tribunal exists in Indonesia, because the 1965 issue was more grey area than Polpot’s regime. and less people outside the activists are willing to talk about it because of 35 years of Soeharto dictatorship (compared to Polpot’s half a decade). the mere presence of the Act of Killing has forced people to be more willing to talk about what happened in 1965 and the aftermath in public and private even when it is deeply couched in terms of the film itself, “someone i knows”, and “i heards”.

    it seems Cambodia as a whole accepts FTKMF more readily than Indonesia did Oppenheimer’s film (The Cambodian King’s presence at the screening I view is a symbol that it is welcomed vs the Indonesian Film Board absolutely refusing to even touch it).

    but time will tell if FTKMF will be as critically well-received by the International film community however. Angelina is definitely not Joshua Oppenheimer level yet.

    • Bridget says:

      If they’re going for an awards push, it is very very hard to get the DGA to accept a co-director credit.

      • Felicia says:

        The co-director has already been Oscar nominated in the past.

      • Bridget says:

        I didn’t say impossible, but it is extremely difficult. For example, Robert Rodriguez put up a huge stink when he couldn’t get George Miller approved as co-director of Watchmen. And in this instance, it’s very clear that it’s the Jolie’s vision and work. It’s literally referred to as “Singularity of Vision” by the DGA, and they actually have a policy of one director per film.

      • Ophelia says:

        A singularity of vision can also easily be proven if a suitable director is found. E.g. if (this is only for the sake of argument), R. Panh is a co-director, no one should rightly fuss because Mr Panh has been making Khmer Rouge films for a long time and also involved in this particular issue. Many other Cambodians will have a similar vision of highlighting Khmer atrocities, surely?

        Bottom line is, if she truly wants it, it won’t be a problem. I googled the film mentioned above, and despite the number of directors, it had no problem being entered into and nominated and winning a boatload of awards, including the Academy Awards and BAFTAs (IMDB even listed three directors).

        So it is possible especially in light of the subject matter being discussed.

      • Bridget says:

        @Ophelia – still likely not in the case of this movie. It’s literally DGA policy that is 1-director (with a few specific exceptions noted, which I’m guessing that your documentary fit in). It is very clearly her vision and her project. Again, I go back to the Miller-Rodriguez example. It was Frank Miller’s source material and visuals, and they still didn’t make the exception.

  7. MaryJo says:

    BBC and Newsweek. I really like her choices of media channels.

  8. Ankhel says:

    I think that if an American came, made a movie, then said they hoped it would make my people proud, and give us an understanding of what it means to be Norwegian…? Hm!

  9. Hype says:

    I like that she takes on a challenge, I will watch this movie just to learn something about the Khmer war.

  10. Zucchini says:

    “what happened to these people was not properly understood. And not just for the world, but for the people of the country. I wanted them to be able to reflect on it in a way that they could absorb. […] And I hope it sheds light on what it is to be Cambodian, and the beauty and love of the family.”

    Really? That sounds a bit tell-you-what-to-think to me. I’m pretty sure the Cambodians have a rich literary/cultural heritage that is perfectly capable of processing what happened. They don’t need a privileged white lady to tell them how to interpret their history, right?

  11. Bluevelvet says:

    I think she’s coming unhinged. Savior Jolie…

  12. d says:

    I really wonder what she meant by “not properly understood”, unless she’s not really explaining properly and/or the interviewer didn’t allow for full explanation. When I was in Cambodia, most adults understood very well what had happened and why. Visiting the Tuol Sleng prison, geez, you’d hear all kinds of stuff about Cambodians visiting and their reactions (e.g. scratching out the eyes of guards in the photos on the wall). If they did want to talk about it, they DIDN’T necessarily with Westerners because it was sort of a shameful part of their history (or rather, they know people consider it a terrible part of their history and it was sort of embarrassing to talk about if that makes sense…like you don’t want to always talk about something that was so appalling and painful, over and over again to strangers). They didn’t appreciate Westerners coming in and picking at the wound and for what…to satisfy Westerners’ curiosity, which usually seemed to take the form of, so, how effed up you? How much did you lose? How terrible was it for you? and so on, you know? Like Tourism of the Gruesome, dwelling on the negative, which they wanted to move past. A lot of reticence had to do with fear of repercussion as well. I met a former solder who started to freak me the eff out once the conversation started going in a certain direction. At that time, there were still a lot of former Khmer Rouge types floating around who could very easily make a person disappear if they felt threatened in some way.
    Not to say that Loung Ung`s story isn`t important; definitely Jolie would likely give it more publicity than if it stayed local, I guess. But I would have said something about the book and movie adding to the already rich mosaic of Khmer culture (it`s what, 2000 years?). But maybe also consider that if you`re going to spend money on the movie, also think about spending locally. At least look up The Green Gecko Project, which helps a lot of the street children in Siem Reap who are very poor, can`t afford to go to school (their family needs to pay for uniforms), and many of whom are hugely at risk of getting sucked into prostitution, the human trafficking trade, and the sex trade, particularly from pedophile foreign tourists. ( I should add, some of the GG kids are in the movie).

  13. jessia says:

    This movie won’t get anywhere.
    Its a TV movie that is airing on Netflix, and AJ isn’t a what I would call a talented director.
    I really don’t have high hopes for this but okay. Suit yourselves.

  14. Kaz says:

    Seems to me that helping Cambodia makes Jolie feel good. But really she is just a patronising wealthy foreigner who visits when she wants and whose efforts might be better directed towards positive help and development for the future, rather than re-telling a history which is ingrained in the very heart and soul of every Khmer.