Angelina Jolie Denies 'Cruel and Exploitative' Claims In Casting Cambodian Orphans

Posted 2017/07/31 1689 0

Angelina Jolie comes under fire for new film's 'cruel' Cambodian orphan casting game.


In the wide-ranging profile published last Wednesday, Jolie spoke of the process of casting the lead role for her latest film, “First They Killed My Father,” based on a true story about the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, which was shot entirely in the Southeast Asian country. Jolie revealed that casting directors found the child actor by playing a “game” that involved placing money in front of children from “orphanages, circuses and slum schools,” asking them what they needed the money, then taking the money away from them to elicit a reaction.

“Srey Moch [the girl ultimately chosen for the part] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time,” Jolie, a United Nations special envoy for refugees since 2012, told the magazine. “When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came flooding back.”

The girl told the directors that the money was for a “nice funeral” for her grandfather who had died.

The description has come under heavy criticism for its exploitative nature, and as to what film could be worth re-triggering a child's deep trauma simply for the purposes of realistic acting. Critics called the casting game cruel and exploitative. Some labeled it a form of emotional abuse.

Jolie and producer Rithy Panh issued joint statements on Sunday responding to the outrage and refuting claims that the production was exploitative through a representative from Netflix, which is producing and distributing 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 suggestion that real money was taken from a child during an audition is false and upsetting," Jolie said. "I would be outraged myself if this had happened."

Jolie said parents, guardians and doctors were on set daily to care for the children and "make sure that no one was in any way hurt by participating in the recreation of such a painful part of their country's history."

Panh, who himself is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, added that casting "was done in the most sensitive way possible."

He described a process that was informed both by families' preferences and NGO (non-governmental organisation) guidelines in which the children understood that they would be acting out a scene.

"The children were not tricked or entrapped, as some have suggested," Panh said. "They understood very well that this was acting, and make believe."