The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current, October 02, 2017, Page Page 16, Image 16

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October 2, 2017
Angelina Jolie on her
Cambodian epic and
the power of family
By Jake Coyle
AP Film Writer
ORONTO — Angelina Jolie arrives
for an interview with the familiar
harried air of a parent who has just
barely managed to withdraw from her
children, all six of whom she’s left having
breakfast upstairs in their Toronto hotel
“The reason I was a little late is they
made me change,” Jolie says, smiling.
“They thought what I was wearing was too
It’s just another example of the extreme
balancing act of Jolie’s life, one which
combines global celebrity with humani-
tarian devotion, A-list stardom with sober
filmmaking, glamour, and family. “I
actually went to a premiere once with pee
on me,” she says. “It was when the kids
were little and I just got peed on at the last
minute. There was nothing to do but wear
But Jolie’s latest film, the powerfully
immersive Cambodian genocide drama
First They Killed My Father, represents a
kind of amalgamation of Jolie’s
multifarious life. Her initial interest in
Cambodia came when she arrived — in a
much earlier life — to make Lara Croft:
Tomb Raider in 2000. She became
infatuated with the country and its people,
began goodwill work for the U.N.’s refugee
agency, and adopted her first child,
Maddox, from Cambodia.
First They Killed My Father, which has
hit Netflix and select theaters, is based on
Loung Ung’s 2000 memoir. The film hues
close to Ung’s perspective as a
five-year-old girl living with her family in
Phnom Penn when the Khmer Rouge
march in, force the residents to flee, and
then imprison Ung’s family in a labor
camp, brutally indoctrinating them to a
classless society. Some two million (nearly
a quarter of the country) died during the
Khmer Rouge’s four year reign of terror.
The film isn’t just a shattering view of
war through a child’s eyes, it’s intended as
a cathartic healing for Cambodia itself,
and a personal journey into the past of
Maddox’s countrymen. The 16-year-old,
credited as an executive producer, colla-
borated with his mother on the pro-
duction, which was shot in Cambodia with
local actors, both professional and not.
“I said to my son Maddox, who’s known
Loung his whole life, when you’re ready,
we should tell Loung’s story. But we have
to tell it together,” Jolie says. “We had this
script for a few years and he came up to me
and said, ‘I’m ready.”’
Jolie’s heavily watched appearance at
the Toronto International Film Festival
was her most public since she filed for
divorce from Brad Pitt after 12 years
together — two of them married. Jolie
acknowledged it’s been a difficult period of
transition and that her filmmaking has
been put on pause. She has an acting gig
lined up (Maleficent 2) but the yearslong
work of directing has for now been tabled.
“I’ve needed to take over a year off just to
be with my kids,” Jolie says. “All I’ve done
is some of my humanitarian work and my
teaching. I’ve done nothing else for over a
year. Now that they’re all older, the
decisions really have to be made together
because they home school and they’ll be
with me and they have a lot of opinions
about what to do.”
Now that her children are getting older,
Jolie hopes the other children will work
with her, too. But, she assures, Maddox
had to work hard, and wouldn’t have
earned a credit if he didn’t.
“I asked Maddox and Pax if they’d work
with me again. I think all the kids even-
STILL VULNERABLE. An endangered snow leopard cub explores its enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo
in California. The elusive snow leopard — long considered an “endangered” species — has been upgraded to
“vulnerable,” international conservationists say. But experts warn the new classification does not mean the big
cats are safe. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Long-endangered snow
leopard upgraded to
“vulnerable” status
By Katy Daigle
The Associated Press
ANGKOK — The elusive snow
leopard — long considered an
endangered species — has been
upgraded to “vulnerable,” international
conservationists say. But experts warn the
new classification does not mean they are
The animals still face serious
challenges, including poaching and loss of
prey in their high Himalayan habitat.
“The species still faces ‘a high risk of
extinction in the wild’ and is likely still
declining — just not at the rate previously
thought,” said Tom McCarthy, head of the
snow leopard program at the big cat
conservation group Panthera.
Snow leopards have been listed as
endangered since 1972.
The reclassification announced by the
International Union for Conservation of
Nature, or IUCN, followed a three-year
assessment that determined there are not
fewer than 2,500 mature snow leopards in
the wild, and that their numbers are not in
steep decline — the two criteria for being
Continued on page 8
WRITING PARTNERS. Angelina Jolie, left, di-
rector/co-writer of the film First They Killed My Father,
and co-writer/human-rights activist Loung Ung, right,
pose for a portrait during the Toronto International
Film Festival in Toronto. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/
tually want to do something. My little boy
who’s nine said he wants to train me
because he thinks I’m out of shape. So
maybe I’ll just be working with my
children,” says Jolie, joking but also
delighted about the idea: a close-knit,
globetrotting clan of moviemaking
adventurers, schooled in classrooms in
Cambodian rice fields and African plains.
“Now,” she says, “where next?”
Loung Ung, 47, came to Vermont from a
refugee camp in Thailand as a 10-year-old.
She now is married and lives in Cleveland,
but she and Jolie have long been friends.
She and Jolie co-wrote the script. Jolie also
enlisted Rithy Panh, the Oscar-nominated
director of the Cambodian genocide
documentary The Missing Picture, as
“There’s probably a Hollywood version of
this, but this wasn’t about that,” says Ung.
“This was about honor and celebration and
If Panh had said no, or if she couldn’t
film the movie in Cambodia, Jolie says she
wouldn’t have made First They Killed My
Father. For a county still struggling with
its history of genocide, the process of
remembering and re-enacting was more
important than the finished work. “It’s not
really the film itself,” says Jolie.
“Preparing to make it was also preparing
to understand and communicate with a
country and help a country to speak.”
Panh likes to joke that Jolie, 42, is “a
Cambodian woman reincarnated.” It’s
clear that the two are bonded by a strong
belief in family. Panh’s experience may
represent Cambodia’s, but First They
Killed My Father is also an indelibly
heart-wrenching story about a family torn
apart by war, yet unbroken.
“Even when the soldiers told us my
parents were enemies of the state, I knew
they loved me and I loved them. There was
never a question about that,” says Panh.
“After I lost them, what they said to me at a
young age, their spirits continue to say to
me. I continue to be raised by my parents.”
Making the film had its own emotions.
Jolie had a therapist on set for those whose
memories were too painfully resurrected.
One man dropped to his knees when he
saw the Khmer Rouge actors marching
over a bridge. Despite the care taken in the
process, Jolie found herself defending the
film’s casting process after she was quoted
in Vanity Fair describing an improvisation
game in which money would be given and
then taken from young actors. Jolie says
the suggestion that it was a real scenario
was “false and upsetting.”
Jolie instead hopes the film brings audi-
ences closer to the Cambodian people, as
well as other countries now experiencing
violent tumult. “This could be Syria,” she
Continued on page 8