Angelina Jolie Pitt has been tapped to both direct and produce an adaptation of First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers for Netflix. The story is a memoir written by Cambodian author and human rights activity Loung Ung about surviving the Khmer Rouge regime.
Jolie Pitt adapted the script along with Ung. Rithy Panh, an acclaimed director in Cambodia, will also serve as a producer. He is perhaps best known as director of The Missing Picture, which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language film category.
The story follows Ung, who was just five in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge assumed power in Cambodia. Through four years of terror and genocide, more than two-million Cambodians died. Ung was removed from her family home and trained as a child soldier in a work camp, separated from her six siblings, who were all sent to labor camps.
The book Ung wrote following her survival was first published in 2000, and caught the attention of Jolie Pitt.
“It deepened forever my understanding of how children experience war and are affected by the emotional memory of it,” said the actress. “And it helped me draw closer still to the people of Cambodia, my son’s homeland.”
The two quickly became friends and worked to adapt the book into a screenplay.
“… my admiration for Angelina as a woman, a mother, a filmmaker, and a humanitarian has only grown,” says Ung. “It is with great honor that I entrust my family’s story to Angelina to adapt into a film.”
“It is a dream come true to be able to adapt this book for the screen,” says Jolie Pitt, “and I’m honored to work alongside Loung and filmmaker Rithy Panh.” Netflix was chosen as a distribution partner, says Jolie Pitt, given its “global reach.”
“Films like this are hard to watch but important to see,” she continues. “They are also hard to get made. Netflix is making this possible, and I am looking forward to working with them and excited that the film will reach so many people.”
Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix, adds that the streaming service is “proud to be working with Angelina Jolie in bringing this emotionally powerful and ultimately uplifting story exclusively to Netflix members around the world. Loung Ung’s incredible journey is a testament to the human spirit and its ability to transcend even the toughest circumstances.”
Maddox, Jolie Pitt’s son who was born in Cambodia (now 13), will be involved in the film’s production as well.
The movie will be released in late 2016 and will also be submitted to major international festivals. It will be released in both Khmer and English.
In addition to working on the film, Ung is also writing her first novel, and is a co-owner of Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland, Ohio. She has been back to visit Cambodia more than 30 times over the past 20 years.
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