Did Angelina Jolie Exploit Cambodian Children During An Emotionally Abusive Casting 'Game'?

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Angelina Jolie
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Angelina Jolie came under fire over the weekend when she was accused of exploiting Cambodian children during the casting process for her new Netflix film, "First They Killed My Father."

For the film, which is about the Khmer Rouge regime that committed genocide in the 1970s, Jolie told Vanity Fair that to find their lead she looked at orphanages, circuses and slum schools for child actors. She was specifically looking for children who had experienced hardship in their lives. 

The casting directors set up a game where they would put money on a table in front of the child and ask them to think of something they needed it for. Then the directors would snatch the money away and pretend to catch the child in a lie, which the child would have to come up with. 

“Srey Moch [the girl ultimately chosen for the part] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time,” Jolie told Vanity Fair. “When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. 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.”

Jolie teared up during the interview. 

After the story came out, people were outraged by that excerpt. Some people even accused Jolie, who is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency, of exploitation. 

People took to Twitter to share their thoughts on what many felt was a cruel and unusual game to play with children who have already been through enough. A lot of people asked via social media, why Jolie didn't just have the children audition by reading lines or acting out scenes.  

But Jolie defended the child-casting technique and said that part of the process was misconstrued. 

“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,” she said in a joint statement made with one of the film’s producers, Rithy Panh, to the Huffington Post. “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 re-creation of such a painful part of their country’s history."

The actress, who got divorced from Brad Pitt last year, said the exercise was an improvisation from the actual scene in the film. 

“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” she said.

Three of Jolie's six children, Maddox, Zahara and Pax, were adopted from orphanages in Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam. Maddox, who is now 15, was adopted by Jolie and her ex-husband Billy Bob Thorton in 2002 after they found him in a Cambodian orphanage. He is also helping his mother as a production assistant for "First They Killed My Father," as a way to break into the film industry.  

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Right before they filed for divorce in September, Brad was almost accused of child abuse for allegedly lunging at Maddox on a plane. 

Rumors circle that Maddox was trying to intervene and argument between his parents, and when he tried to protect Angelina, Brad "made contact" with him. Some reports say that Brad was drunk during the incident, and others say he was sober. 

An insider said that Angelina would not cooperate with the police if Brad was charged. 

The Netflix original, "First They Killed My Father" will be shown at the Toronto international film festival, and is expected to be released on Netflix later this year.

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