Transcript for Angelina Jolie on her new film and the importance of family
Reporter: It's been a tumu tumultuous year for actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie. The star's personal life grabbing headlines. From her high-profile breakup with Brad Pitt after as do yea S dozen years together, to health scares. Yet the single working mom of six staying busy through it all. Now one of Hollywood's most famous faces stepping behind the camera once again, serving as director in her latest film "First they killed my father." I think for any country it's important to understand what -- your past, and Cambodia has a beautiful, ancient, thousands year old glorious past, but also a past that has war and genocide. And so I felt that it was really important, this country I love so much, to discuss. Reporter: The film a passion project nearly two decades in the making. She first visited Cambodia while filming "Lara croft: Tomb raider." That's when she stumbled on a memoir by luang Ang. 17 years later she's teaming up with a Cambodian producer to bring the story to life. A heart-wrenching account of one of the darkest chapters of Cambodia's history. Over four years of terror under the khmer rouge. Families forced into labor camps. Millions displaced. One-quarter of the population died. The genocide considered one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century. The most vulnerable at the heart of this film. Why is it helpful to see this through the eyes of a child? Through your eyes? I think people sometimes, when they talk about genocide and crimes against humanity and war, they forget that the most vulnerable victims in all of this are the children. Reporter: The perils of war front and center. The level of sacrifice that a mother, a parent, is willing to make. I take it that speaks to you? So many people have experiences like that. They do thins for their kids, they sacrifice for their children, they sacrifice for those they love. Those people may never understand the sacrifice. Reporter: A mother's love also manifesting itself behind the cameras. I was blown away by Maddox's role in this. I didn't realize he speaks multiple languages. He's learning all those things. He's learning. Yes, languages is something he's surprisingly good at. He speaks French with him, not with me. Reporter: The 42-year-old actress and humanitarian adopted her oldest son Maddox from Cambodia. The 16-year-old also served as an executive producer on the project. When I see him on set working with everybody, when he says to me, well, mom, it's because I'm Cambodian. I say, are you proud? He says, I'm very proud to be Cambodian. You talk about adopting. It's more THA adopting. Angelina Jolie did not come to see us, she come to be with us. You're getting emotional. Yeah. It's enough. You began your family there. I met Maddox, I felt connected to the country. When I saw his eyes are imy I met him. He's quoted as saying you're a wonder mom. He is. He's -- you know. You just love your children so much. And you're just happy that they think you're doing an okay job. Reporter: And like most moms, she's been juggling a lot. Four years after going public about her voluntary mastectomy and hysterectomy, she recently reveal the she struggled with hypertension, early menopause, and bell's palsy. Part of the reason why you have fans in so many sectors of the world is you're so approachable. You've been very open about your health issues. This is where you swing to the personal? This is a segue? Just a little bit. It's also true, people are concerned about your health issues. How are you doing? How is the recovery? I'm fine right now. You are? Yeah, I'm fine right now. My children are healthy, I'm healthy. And -- thank you. Reporter: Jolie refusing to go deeper. Choosing instead to focus on the film. You've done a number of movies about war. Am I a prisoner? "In the land of blood and honey." "Unbroken." Don't look at me. What have they taught you, if anything, about the human cost of war? I think it's important to understand history. When you direct a film, you spend years understanding, analyzing. I want to know what happens. I want to know how people get to a place where they do such harm to each other. Reporter: The human toll of those bloody conflicts, she says, now Morrell than ever. This is not 40 years ago, this is today. We have 45 million people displaced today. We have so many ongoing wars. We're seeing ethnic cleansing. What is worse is then we could say, if we knew. If we knew, we would have done so much. We know. If anything, we see people more divided, see people encouraged to board up and roll up and divide more. We do not see people coming together. Reporter: She's hoping this film will help remind us all to never forget those lessons of history or the resilience to move beyond. For "Nightline" I'm juju Chang in New York.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.