AceShowbiz - Angelina Jolie has responded to an uproar caused by a controversial casting process for her movie "First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers". The 42-year-old, who directed the Netflix movie, refutes Vanity Fair's story about the method used by casting directors to find the movie's young lead.
"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," she says in a statement. "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."
She adds, "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. Parents, guardians, partner NGOs whose job it is to care for children, and medical doctors were always on hand everyday, to ensure everyone had all they needed. And above all to 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."
Producer Rithy Panh, who is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge during which the story in the movie takes place, says reports about the casting process for "First They Killed My Father" "grossly mischaracterize how child actors were selected for the film."
Clearing up "the misunderstandings," he claims, "Because so many children were involved in the production, Angelina and I took the greatest care to ensure their welfare was protected." He goes on explaining, "The casting was done in the most sensitive way possible. The children were from different backgrounds. Some were underprivileged; others were not. Some were orphans. All of the children were tended to at all times by relatives or carers from the NGOs responsible for them. The production team followed the families' preferences and the NGO organizations' guidelines. Some of the auditions took place on the NGOs' premises."
"Ahead of the screen tests, the casting crew showed the children the camera and the sound recording material," Panh details the process. "It explained to them that they were going to be asked to act out a part: to pretend to steal petty cash or a piece of food left unattended and then get caught in the act. It relates to a real episode from the life of Loung Ung, and a scene in the movie, when she and her siblings were caught by the Khmer Rouge and accused of stealing."
In its cover story, Vanity Fair wrote that casting directors "set up a game, rather disturbing in its realism" in order to find the movie's young lead. "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."
Jolie also told the publication, "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 tearfully recalled, "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."