Actress, director and celebrated humanitarian Angelina Jolie is coming under fire for what critics are saying was an “exploitative” game she used to cast Cambodian children for her latest directorial effort.
On Saturday, she issued a statement defending herself and saying the story was taken out of context.
- The description of the game she allegedly played emerged in a Vanity Fair profile of her in which she discussed her divorce from Brad Pitt, her diagnosis with Bell’s Palsy and how she has moved on with her life in recent months.
- The portion that has drawn criticism is the one in which she discusses the process of casting the lead role for First They Killed My Father. The film is based on the true story of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia and was shot entirely there.
- According to the piece, Jolie sought out “orphanages, circuses and slum schools,” in order to find children who had “experienced hardship.”
- To cast the lead the article claims, a game was set up in which “they put money on the table and asked the child to think of something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away. The director would pretend to catch the child, and the child would have to come up with a lie.”
- In the piece, Jolie explains: “Srey Moch [the girl ultimately chosen for the part] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time. When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came flooding back.”
- Jolie then tears up, according to Vanity Fair. “When she was asked later what the money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral.”
- The “game” they played soon draw attention on social media, with some calling it “exploitative,” while others going so far as to say it was “emotional abuse.”
- Jolie said on Saturday that the description was taken out of context. She claims that there were parents, guardians and medical doctors present during the entire process of making the film, including the auditions, the HuffPost reports.
- “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,” she told HuffPost in a statement.
- She claims the “game” described in Vanity Fair was an improv exercise and that real money was never taken from the kids.
- “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,” Jolie tells HuffPost. “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.”
- The movie is based on the 2000 memoir of the same name by Loung Ung, who survived Khmer Rouge killings.