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First They Killed My Father Review

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There’s only one scene in First They Killed My Father that isn’t told through the eyes of Loung Ung (Sareum Srey Moch), the young daughter of a high-ranking Cambodian government official who was swept up in the terror of the Khmer Rouge’s campaign of genocide in 1975. It’s the opening montage, one cutting between footage of Richard Nixon insisting on American neutrality in the country and newsreels of the violence and bombing that spilled over into Cambodia’s borders during the Vietnam War. “This is not an invasion of Cambodia,” Nixon intones over images of burning jungles and burnt bodies on the streets of Phnom Penh, as the Rolling Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil” roars on the soundtrack.

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Angelina Jolie's "First They Killed My Father" is far and away her best work as a director: a rare film about a national tragedy told through the eyes and mind of a child, and as fine a war movie as has ever been made

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.

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All things considered, “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers” is an inspiring true story by Loung Ung. Although Ung had every right to let the hate take over since she experienced more loss, pain and discrimination in the first 6 years of her life than most humans will experience in a lifetime, still she chose to love. Instead of being scared and terrified of her story, she uses it to raise awareness for the many innocent lives that were taken and the many innocent humans who are still living in pain in her native home

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.

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