Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie Pitt – who is in Cambodia researching a film adaptation of Loung Ung’s Khmer Rouge memoir First They Killed My Father – yesterday visited Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng genocide museum and Bophana Center.
Netflix – a US provider of on-demand internet streaming media – first announced the adaptation in a statement released on Thursday in the US.
The book details the Khmer Rouge’s violent takeover of Cambodia and Ung’s years under the communist regime.
Jolie Pitt, whose Cambodia-born adopted son Maddox will also be involved in the production, has co-written the script with Ung.
In a statement released yesterday by Bophana, Jolie Pitt stressed that the book was written from the viewpoint of a young child and that the producers of the film version would go to great effort – working with historians and Bophana and interviewing those who lived under the regime – “to make sure the events in the film are depicted correctly”.
“We will be spending the next few months scouting for locations, casting the film, but most importantly researching every event to make sure it is historically accurate and will pay respect not only to Loung Ung and her family but to every single individual who suffered under the Khmer Rouge,” she said.
Jolie Pitt said that while the book was one girl’s memories, the film would draw on the experiences of others to “complete the story”.
“The intent of this project is not to revisit the horrors of the war, but to bring to the screen characters that people around the world will identify with and empathise with and help to teach people about this country that I love and respect, and the Cambodian culture and family life I so admire,” she said.
The film would be shot in Cambodia from November to the end of January using a Cambodian cast and crew in Khmer, she said.
Jolie Pitt was accompanied on the tours around the centre and museum – once used as a torture and execution centre by the Khmer Rouge – by celebrated Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, who is a co-producer on the adaptation.
“It will be made for and with Cambodians,” she said.
“I look forward to working with the Cambodian production team, Bophana Production, and all the great local artists, and I am excited by all that I know that they will bring to the project.”
Jolie Pitt shot the action film Tomb Raider in Cambodia in 2001 and has had an enduring relationship with the country ever since.
In 2003, she founded the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, a Cambodia-based NGO that focuses on environmental conservation and rural poverty, mostly in the northwest of the Kingdom.
First They Killed My Father is due to be released to Netflix subscribers in late 2016.