Shooting for Angelina Jolie Pitt’s film adaptation of the Khmer Rouge memoir First They Killed My Father is set to begin next month in Siem Reap and feature a cast of thousands.
Cambodia Film Commission director Cheap Sovichea said locations would include the Angkor Wat and Bayon temples, the Siem Reap River and roads, houses and rice fields in Bakong, Banteay Srey and Pouk districts.
“Ninety per cent of the film will be shot in Siem Reap [province] and some [locations] will be in Battambang,” Sovichea said. “We will start to film in Siem Reap from the 12th of November until the end of January.”
Line producer Bill Wilson said a huge number of extras would be needed.
“There are around 2,000 to 3,000 people in total [involved in the film] including all background performers, workers, technicians and actors,” he said.
Wilson and Sovichea met with Siem Reap Provincial Governor Khim Bun Song yesterday to seek the authority’s assistance.
Sovichea said permission had already been granted from the Apsara Authority to film near the temples but help was needed from the provincial authorities in notifying the local community about the filming, which will include scenes with explosions and gunfire.
The production also needed permission to block some roads and clear areas of people during scenes depicting the evacuation of Phnom Penh.
Khim Bun Song said he supported the production in Siem Reap but wanted more information before granting permission to close roads and detonate explosions.
“We need to know in advance which road that will be blocked because Siem Reap is small and a tourism province.
There are a lot of tourists, so we don’t want to affect the tourists’ feelings,” Khim Bun Song said. “And the explosion and gunfire scenes should be shot far from the town, and we will inform to the local community about this.”
Jolie Pitt is directing the film from a script she co-wrote with the memoir’s author Loung Ung. The film is being produced for Netflix – a US provider of on-demand internet streaming media – and was first announced in July.
Celebrated Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh is a co-producer on the film.
Wilson said the film followed Uong’s family as they left Phnom Penh and travelled to different areas around the country during their years under the communist regime.
Siem Reap province was the ideal place to shoot the film because of the different locations available, he said. “Siem Reap offers various looks that we need for the picture while also offering really good infrastructure.”
Wilson said many films had been made about the Khmer Rouge before but First They Killed My Father would be different.
“This is unique, I think, because it is from the perspective of a young 5-year-old girl and we will see the movie through her eyes – what she saw and what she experienced. It is very new way to tell the story,” he said.
Jolie Pitt shot the action film Tomb Raider in Cambodia in 2001 and has had an enduring relationship with the country ever since.
In 2003, she founded the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, a Cambodia-based NGO, named for her adopted son of Cambodian descent, that focuses on environmental conservation and rural poverty, mostly in the northwest of the Kingdom.