First They Killed My Father Review
Adapted by Jolie and co-writer Loung Ung from Ung's memoir about her family's experiences after the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, it stands apart from most work in this vein not just because of what it does so well, but because of what it refuses to do. There are emotionally powerful moments, particularly near the end when you start to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but there's little in the way of canned Hollywood uplift. But every image and feeling are anchored to the point-of-view of Ung, played by the remarkable young actress Sareum Srey Moch. She was five when the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh and seven when she made it out, her young mind stained by memories of hunger, brutality and sudden death. She learned skills that no child should know, like how to plant land mines, fire an AK-47, and drive a spear into a Vietnamese soldier's chest.The movie kicks off with a prologue alluding to how American carpet bombing of Cambodia during the closing years of the war helped create a power vacuum that vicious people rushed to fill. This is related through documentary and news clips of bombers incinerating forests, U.S. troops understandably expressing little interest in or animosity toward Cambodia, then-President Richard Nixon insisting that there is no American war there, and then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger callously promising a "final solution" in the region. The blend of languages in this section reinforces the idea that this era was a tragedy of international significance, regardless of whether people who were alive at the time paid attention.
She has made it her own mission to go back to Cambodia and help the people, her family and all the other Cambodians who deserve a chance of happiness, ignoring the pain of the past that was marked like a scar into her heart.