The outcry and accusations of child abuse that followed have prompted Angelina Jolie, a United Nations ambassador, to clarify that the children were not given real money and that it was a version of events depicted in the film.
Angelina Jolie has defended the casting process, criticized as cruel and exploitative, in a film she directed for Netflix. In a statement carried by several international sites including BBC, the 42-year-old actress and director have revealed that she’s “upset that a pretend exercise in an improvisation, from an actual scene in the film, has been written about as if it was a real scenario.” In an interview with Vanity Fair last week, Angelina Jolie said that casting for the lead role of a Cambodian child in First They Killed My Father, set in the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, involved asking the child actors auditioning to snatch money, then invent a lie about why they wanted it. The children being auditioned were all Cambodian and poor.
Jolie, a special envoy for the United Nations refugee agency, told Vanity Fair she looked for her lead star in orphanages, circuses and slum schools.
In the casting, a child was placed in front of money on a table, asked to think of what they needed it for and to snatch it away. Jolie would then pretend to catch them, and the child would have to lie about why they stole the money.
The outcry and accusations of child abuse that followed have prompted Angelina Jolie, to clarify that the children were not given real money and that it was a version of events depicted in the film. “I am upset that a pretend exercise in an improvisation, from an actual scene in the film, has been written about as if it was a real scenario. The point of this film is to bring attention to the horrors children face in war and to help fight to protect them. The suggestion that real money was taken from a child during an audition is false and upsetting. I would be outraged myself if this had happened,” her statement read.
“Every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort, and well-being of the children on the film starting from the auditions through production to the present,” Angelina Jolie has said.
“First They Killed My Father” is about the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime under which more than 1 million people died. It is due to be released globally and on Netflix in September.
Jolie said the young girl who won the part, Srey Moch, was chosen after “she became overwhelmed with emotion” when forced to give the money back, saying she needed the money to pay for her grandfather’s funeral.
“The children were not tricked or entrapped, as some have suggested,” Rithy Panh, a Cambodian producer on the film, said in a statement. They understood very well that this was acting, and make believe.”
The Vanity Fair interview is the actress’ first after she ended her marriage to Brad Pitt, with whom she has six children. Eldest son Maddox is from Cambodia. In the interview, Angelina Jolie also revealed that she was recently diagnosed with Bell’s palsy.