October 12 2017

Reflections on Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father

Lynn Croneberger, CEO, on film about Khmer Rouge and war through the eyes of a child.

By: Lynn Croneberger
CEO of SOS Children’s Villages–USA

It's hard to put oneself in the shoes of a child who has lost it all: their home…their family…their childhood.

While watching the film First They Killed My Father I found myself doing just that — witnessing the horrors of war through the eyes of one little girl.

First They Killed My Father, directed by Angelina Jolie, is about author and human rights activist Loung Ung’s life under the rule of the deadly Khmer Rouge. The film is the adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir that focuses on her story of surviving the deadly Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1978. The regime led to the deaths of up to two million people, nearly a quarter of the country's then population, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of families.

The story is told through the eyes of a young Loung, starting at the age of five, when the Khmer Rouge came to power, to when she was nine years old.

I admire Loung for sharing her personal story and shining a harsh light on what children see, experience and internalize during war and conflict. SOS Children's Villages was honored to participate in such a powerful film. 

Me with Komarey, SOS child and First They Killed My Father actress

We are especially proud of Chenda Run and Komarey, two girls from our SOS Children’s Village in Cambodia, who both have parts in the film. Chenda Run plays the supporting role of Loung’s middle sister and Komarey plays the messenger girl. Chenda, Komarey and the other children in the movie depict this tragic story with skill and empathy, offering a disturbing, but accurate child’s point of view of this historic atrocity.

I encourage you to watch the film, which is now streaming on Netflix and playing at select theaters. We hope the film inspires people to support children in crisis, and help organizations like ours to continue to provide care and support to these children in vulnerable circumstances.

I know I was profoundly touched by Loung’s story and this film, and I hope you will be, too.

Lynn Croneberger is the CEO of SOS Children’s Villages – USA. You can follow her on Twitter @LynnCroneberger