About 200 people gathered for a private screening of the new Netflix film First They Killed My Father and discussion with the film’s Director, Producer and Co-Screenwriter Angelina Jolie and Co-Screenwriter and Executive Producer Loung Ung, at the nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California last night. The film is the adaptation of Cambodian author and human rights activist Ung’s gripping memoir of surviving the deadly Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1978. The story is told through her eyes, from the age of five, when the Khmer Rouge came to power, to nine years old. The film depicts the indomitable spirit and devotion of Loung and her family as they struggle to stay together during the Khmer Rouge years.
Attendees asked questions and listened intently from inside the Aquarium’s Ocean Theater as Ung and Jolie each spoke. “We are proud to be in the city with the largest Cambodian population outside of Southeast Asia. We have a long history of working with our local Cambodian communities and have honored outstanding members of the community with our Heritage Award, including survivors of the genocide. It is important for the public to know about the history of Cambodia and to continually engage our local residents, and that is why we worked with Netflix and our local Cambodian communities on this screening. We are grateful to Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung for being here to listen to and speak with the residents of Long Beach,” said Dr. Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific president and CEO. The film is Cambodia’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film.
The screening held at the Aquarium was part of a three month campaign to screen the film with Cambodian communities across the United States and Canada. Screening locations included campus cultural centers, The Khmer Legacy Museum, and the National Cambodian Heritage Museum and Killing Fields Memorial. All screenings included a post-film Q&A or panel discussion. The Aquarium was selected based on its relationship with the Cambodian community in Long Beach. For over a decade, the Aquarium has hosted Southeast Asia Day, an annual cultural festival featuring Cambodian performers and cultural crafts and honoring a local member of the community. The Aquarium also offers opportunities throughout the year for the local community to visit at a discounted rate or for free, making the institution accessible to all.