First They Killed My Father is a searing portrait of what happens when you are caught in the crossfire of a war. The film has been directed by Angelina Jolie and helps put across the pointlessness of war and its horrific results eloquently. Set in Cambodia of 1975, when the country was under the Communist Khmer Rouge regime, First They Killed My Father is a moving portrait of the trials and tribulations of seven-year-old Loung Ung and her family during the great upheaval.
There have been historical films and biographical films before, but only a few can compare to the scale of beauty and horror First They Killed My Father conveys in the duration of two hours. And the credit for the nuanced characterization and strong narrative goes to scriptwriters Loung Ung and Angelina Jolie.
First They Killed My Father is based on the book penned by Loung Ung, who incidentally happens to be a close friend of Jolie. Ung is someone Jolie has known for over 15 years, and in an interview, Jolie had revealed that she made this movie for the sake of Ung, Cambodia and her American-Cambodian son Maddox. The fact that the movie is so personal for Jolie is telling in every frame of the movie. With a lot of help from the cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who has earlier worked on movies like The Last King of Scotland and Slumdog Millionaire, Jolie delivers a breathtaking film that angers and moves you to astonishing degrees.
What is it like to lose a father? What is it like to be a child and be estranged from your family? What is it like to be thrown from the lap of luxury to penury? To be displaced, scattered, lost and wounded; what is it like? These important but painful questions are answered with sparkling honesty. First They Killed My Father is as much about a misplaced sense of freedom and patriotism as it is about love, loss and memories.
Everything comes together in a beautiful and intricate mesh of nostalgia, blood and independence, and that is a feat that would have been difficult to pull off without the help of the captain of the ship, Angelina Jolie. The cast is phenomenal, but the young girl who plays Ung, Sreymoch Sareum, is especially a knock-out. It is through her eyes that the entire story of Cambodia in the 70s is told. Rarely does a film grace the screen where it lacks in no department. First They Killed My Father is a fine example. A heartbreakingly stunning piece of art.