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While she may have started out as a blockbuster presence thanks to a stellar resume including films like the original Tomb Raider movies, Angelina Jolie has always had a serious side to her filmography. This more dramatic, and in turn more personal side especially took hold when she shifted into the role of a director, starting with the war-torn drama In The Land of Blood and Honey and continuing through to her latest helming effort, First They Killed My Father. And as it turns out, that particular film was the first that bridged the gap between Jolie’s roles as a director and as a mother.
Discussing her career, and her family, with Vogue’s India edition, Angelina Jolie credits this connection in the following context:
My life as an artist is about communication and art. Sometimes the focus is more on entertainment, but most recently, as a director, it has been very much about the global issues I focus on. First They Killed My Father is the film that marries those worlds. But at the heart, it is the story of difficult years in my son’s country. So my motherhood also influences my work. And no, I don’t see a division.
Based on Loung Ung’s memoir of the same name, First They Killed My Father is a story that deals with the totalitarian rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, after U.S. forces pulled out of the region at the end of the Vietnam War. As the home nation of Jolie’s first adopted son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, the material not only connected with Angelina Jolie as a humanitarian filmmaker, but it led to a very personal link to the project. It's one that Maddox also shared, as he served as one of the film’s executive producers.
With Angelina Jolie’s roots in such philanthropic efforts stemming back to the influences of her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, it’s no surprise that when she started her directing career, stories of how intense warfare affects the people who are caught in the middle of such events became her stock in trade. The only factor that ever changed was the intensity of her connection to the material, which was why First They Killed My Father became such an important milestone in her career.
Much like her mother before her, Angelina Jolie is now able to pass on these core values to her own children, both through her deeds and her art. While she’ll still make potential crowd-pleasing films like Marvel’s The Eternals, those seem to be the acting roles that will fuel her personal talent for plucking very human stories from inhuman times, and telling them as a writing/directing talent.
First They Killed My Father is currently streaming on Netflix, and you can hear Angelina Jolie in The One and Only Ivan, when it premieres on Disney+ on August 14. If you’re not a subscriber, but would like to get in on the action before that film’s debut, check out the 7-day free trial that’s available to newcomers.