A Cambodian film may have its best chance yet at Oscars recognition, with the country’s submission for Best Foreign Film – Angelina Jolie and Rithy Panh’s First They Killed My Father – accepted for consideration.
The movie, which has been streaming on Netflix since last month with a limited release in theatres in Cambodia and the United States, and on the festival circuit in North America, is an adaptation of Loung Ung’s harrowing story of her family’s experience under the Khmer Rouge.
The film is among 92 currently under consideration in the category. The list will be whittled down to a handful of entries later this year, before the final nominees are decided in January 2018.
Among other requirements, “the submitting country must certify that creative control of the motion picture was largely in the hands of citizens or residents of that country”, according to the Oscars guidelines, and must also be in a language other than English.
Director and co-writer Jolie was granted honorary Cambodian citizenship in 2005, and the film was produced by Cambodian filmmaker Panh. It was also shot entirely in the Kingdom and in Khmer, and employed hundreds of locals.
Were the movie to win, the award would not go to Jolie or Panh but would be awarded to the country as a whole, under Academy rules.
After Cambodia selected the film as its Oscars submission on September 18, Ung issued a statement calling the news “emotional” and said the team was proud to “share this moment with the country”. Jolie added that the selection meant “a great deal” to everybody who participated.
“To work with local artists to bring this story forward has been a moving and humbling experience,” she wrote.
Khmer Rouge survivors react to First They Killed My Father: