Netflix’s current motto seems to be, “Can’t stop, won’t stop.” After making waves in the original content realm with shows like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, the streaming service then became a haven for cancelled series like Arrested Development and The Killing to continue on. Then late last year, they made their first move into original feature films with Cary Fukunaga’s drama Beasts of No Nation—also their first Oscar play— and a multi-picture deal with Adam Sandler. The original film trend continues today with some esteemed pedigree: the next directorial effort of Angelina Jolie Pitt.
It was announced today that Jolie Pitt will direct an adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir First They Killed My Father: A Daugher of Cambodia Remembers as a Netflix original film. Ung’s book recounts her harrowing survival from the deadly Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Jolie Pitt has co-written the script with Ung and will also produce the film, with The Missing Picture director Rithy Panh onboard as an additional producer.
Loung Ung was five years old when the Khmer Rouge assumed power over Cambodia in 1975 and began a four-year reign of terror and genocide in which nearly two million Cambodians died. Forced from her family’s home in Phnom Penh, Ung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans while her six siblings were sent to labor camps.
Per Netflix, Jolie Pitt had this to say about the announcement:
“I was deeply affected by Loung’s book. It deepened forever my understanding of how children experience war and are affected by the emotional memory of it. And it helped me draw closer still to the people of Cambodia, my son’s homeland. It is a dream come true to be able to adapt this book for the screen, and I’m honored to work alongside Loung and filmmaker Rithy Panh.”
Jolie Pitt’s Cambodian-born son Maddox will also have a role in the production, the press release notes, and the actress/filmmaker was attracted to Netflix for the project due to the global reach of the streaming service. Indeed, Netflix has significantly expanded the audience for documentaries and hard-to-market dramas, and First They Killed My Father will be released in both Khmer and English.
Jolie Pitt is currently in post-production on her third directorial effort, the relationship drama By the Sea in which she also co-stars with Brad Pitt. First They Killed My Father will be her next film, beginning production later this year in Cambodia, but the press release also says she still plans to make the epic Africa about paleo-anthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey. Africa was previously announced as Jolie Pitt’s potential Unbroken follow-up, but the film was subsequently postponed. The Netflix press release clarifies the status of the project as follows:
Africa was postponed to provide additional time to get the script finalized and all production elements lined up properly to provide for the ambitious scope of the film. Jolie Pitt remains committed to making the film and continues her strong support of Dr. Leakey, the people of Kenya and ending wildlife crime and the illegal wildlife trade
Jolie Pitt was due to reunite with Unbroken cinematographer Roger Deakins on Africa, so I’ll be curious to see if he shoots First They Killed My Father. While Jolie Pitt has only directed two films thus far, I’m interested to see her evolve as a filmmaker. Unbroken had major structural issues (it should’ve been a miniseries), but Jolie Pitt showed promise regardless. She’s clearly only choosing projects she feels deeply passionate about (sorry, Marvel), and hopefully First They Killed My Father is a more focused effort.
Netflix plans to release the film on the streaming service in late 2016 in addition to submitting it to major international film festivals, meaning Beasts of No Nation isn’t the first and only time they’re gunning for awards consideration. Talk about stepping up your game.