BBC – Culture – Film review: First They Killed My Father
The subtitle of Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father distills the essence of this eloquent film: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. Closely following the memoir by Loung Ung, Jolie has directed a piercing film about a child’s experience of the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s.
Seen from the point of view of Loung, who was five years old when her life crumbled around her and much of her family disappeared, the film is vividly real and shaped with a sure artistic hand. Now and then, hallucinatory and imagined scenes glide in, adding a poetic aura and enhancing the pervasive sense that Loung is trapped in a living nightmare.
Jolie has had a high-profile, uneven record as a director. Her last film, Beyond the Sea, was an indulgent homage to 1960s cinema, unwatchable with a straight face. Unbroken, about the survivor of a Japanese internment camp during World War Two, was competent and pedestrian.
But the new film takes her back to what she does best, and what she did in her underrated first film, In the Land of Blood and Honey, set during the Bosnian war. These films are not about politics, but about the impact of politics on individuals, as characters’ inner lives are moulded by the wars outside their doors.