Angelina Jolie blasts 'false and upsetting' account of child auditions
Angelina Jolie has described accounts of a casting exercise for her new film, in which children were given money which was then taken away from them, as false and upsetting.
The actress' comments came after an excerpt from a Vanity Fair profile of Jolie, who co-wrote and directed the film First They Killed My Father, sparked a backlash online earlier this week from people who criticised the methods as being cruel and exploitative.
Adapted from Loung Ung's memoir, the biographical drama centres on her childhood under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which she talked about in a recent Vanity Fair profile.
The article described a scene in which casting directors attempting to find a child actress to play the lead role presented money to impoverished children, only to take it away from them as an acting exercise.
Jolie and producer Rithy Panh issued joint statements on Sunday denying 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," 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."
Jolie said parents, guardians and doctors were on the set every day 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, himself 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."
The Vanity Fair article went into more detail about the production than the one paragraph that circulated on Twitter, which sparked the initial outrage.
Vanity Fair issued a statement on Sunday saying author Evgenia Peretz "clearly describes what happened during the casting process as a 'game'" and "that t he film-makers 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 on Netflix after being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.