Angelina Jolie has hit back at claims that her new Netflix film First They Killed My Father used ‘cruel’ audition methods to find its child stars.
The star, who directed the film, released a joint statement with producer Rithy Panh on Sunday responding to the backlash to her comments in a profile interview in Vanity Fair, in which she described the casting process for the film.
In the interview, Jolie explained that casting directors for the film, based on the real-life Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, placed money in front of children from “orphanages, circuses and slum schools”, only to take it away from them in order to elicit a reaction. A portion of the article circulated on Twitter, drawing much criticism.
The statement, however, suggests that her words had been misinterpreted.
“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 said. “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.”
Producer Panh, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide, added that “the children were not tricked or entrapped, as some have suggested,” and that they “understood very well that this was acting, and make believe.”
Jolie added that 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.”
Vanity Fair were also at pains to clarify that the section of the article that was circulating on Twitter did not tell the full story.
The magazine released a statement on Sunday clarifying that the article’s author Evgenia Peretz “clearly describes what happened during the casting process as a ‘game’ “and “that the filmmakers went to extraordinary lengths to be sensitive in addressing the psychological stresses on the cast and crew that were inevitable in making a movie about the genocide carried out in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge.”
Jolie’s film will debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and is set to be released on Netflix sometime after that. Watch a teaser below.