Angelina Jolie has been forced to defend the controversial casting process for her new film, First They Killed My Father.
The star – who is famed all over the world for her humanitarian efforts – came under fire last week after an interview in which it was explained that the film’s casting directors sought out children from “orphanages, circuses and slum schools” and subjected them to an unusual audition process.
According to the Vanity Fair interview, they placed a large sum of money onto a table and encouraged the children to dream about what they would use it for before being encouraged to steal it, and then being ‘caught’ by someone, to whom they’d have to explain why they took it.
Sareum Srey Moch (who eventually won the part) was, according to Jolie, the only child that “stared at the money for a very, very long time” before becoming emotional – apparently recalling real-life events.
“When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion,” said Jolie. “All these different things came flooding back.
“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.”
After Jolie’s account of the casting call was made public, it sparked a backlash online – with many pointing out how “cruel” and “disturbing” such a process would be on the children.
Now Jolie has responded to the backlash, saying it was a “pretend exercise”.
As reported by Huffington Post, she said in a statement: “Every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort and wellbeing 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 every day, 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.”
Jolie added: “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.”
Images: Rex Features