Over the weekend, a new Vanity Fair article leveled some serious allegations against a new Angelina Jolie Netflix movie called First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, with the director now responding. The article detailed a "game" set up by the casting directors where money was placed in front of the kids, only to have it snatched away, and revealed that the production sought out "orphanages, circuses, and slum schools, specifically seeking children who had experienced hardship." Here's what director Angelina Jolie had to say, making it clear that the auditions were not abusive towards the children in any way.
"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."
The director made the statement to Entertainment Weekly, which came after the Vanity Fair piece by contributing editor Evgenia Peretz was published. Vanity Fair did not respond to EW's request for comment, although it's possible that they will release some sort of a statement later on. Here's the rest of Angelina Jolie's statement below about the casting process on this upcoming Angelina Jolie movie, and the controversy surrounding it.
"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. I would be outraged myself if this had happened. The point of this film is to bring attention to the horrors children face in war, and to help fight to protect them."
First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers is based on the book of the same name by Loung Ung. Until the age of five, Loung Ung lived in Phnom Penh with her parents, six siblings and loved fried crickets, chicken fights, and open-air markets. When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into her city in April 1975, Ung's family was forced to flee their home and hide their previous life of privilege. Eventually, they dispersed in order to survive. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans while her other siblings were sent to labor camps. Only after the Vietnamese destroyed the Khmer Rouge were Loung and her surviving siblings slowly reunited. Published in 2000, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers was selected by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians' Association for "Excellence in Adult Non-fiction Literature." The book has been published in eleven languages and chosen widely for school and community reads. The movie has been completed and it is slated for release later this year on the Netflix streaming service.