Angelina Jolie had to wait for her eldest son Maddox to really appreciate his homeland's terrible past before she could turn Loung Ung’s memoir into a major movie.
The actress promoted her new directorial effort First They Killed My Father at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday (11Sep17), and her Cambodia-born 16-year-old, who is credited as an executive producer, joined mom on the red carpet.
Angelina tells news show Extra she and Loung became friends 16 years ago and they had been working on a film adaptation of the writer and activist's harrowing tale of the Cambodian genocide under the ruthless Khmer Rouge for some time - but she had to make sure her son was old enough to understand the story before she started work on the movie.
"When I first read it (Loung's memoir), it really affected me, but I didn’t think of making a film," she tells the outlet. "Loung became a friend and we became girlfriends for 16 years.
"Loung and I wrote the script years ago and we talked about it being a film, but we said it really has to be about Maddox. He goes back to Cambodia often and he knows what it is to be Cambodian, but to work for months and go this deep into the history, was going to be another level of understanding he had to be old enough to absorb it."
And Angelina is tremendously proud of how her son handled his role as an executive producer on the project.
"He was amazing," she adds. "He actually really impressed me, he had to earn it. I was able to say, 'You have a job, get over here, help me with this...' He was great."
And he helped his mom with the more complex parts of Loung's story.
"He was able to say to me, I don’t understand this, you have to make it clear,” Jolie says.
The actress/director's second eldest son Pax was also a big help on set after signing up as the still photographer.
He also joined big brother Maddox and their four siblings at the film festival, and Jolie confesses it was fun having her family with her as she promoted the movie in Canada.
"They’re having a great time," she smiles. "They are really close friends with the cast’s kids, so while I'm working they are trashing a hotel room."
First They Killed My Father will be released on Netflix and to select cinemas on 15 September (17).