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Anorak | Angelia Jolie’s celebrity colonialism comes a cropper

Angelia Jolie’s celebrity colonialism comes a cropper

by | 30th, July 2017

Angelina Jolie has been casting for her film set in Cambodia. The film, First They Killed My Father, features children living under Pol Pot’s murderous regime. According to Evgenia Peretz writing for Vanity Fair, the auditions involved a novel form of mental torture and exploitation. Jolie, a woman with the purchasing power to pluck orphans from slums, slap an ‘X’ on the names and transport them to an American mansion to appreciate the kind of lifestyle a Russian oligarch might find gauche, was looking for the right kind of desperate child:

To cast the children in the film, Jolie looked at orphanages, circuses, and slum schools, specifically seeking children who had experienced hardship. In order to find their lead, to play young Loung Ung, the casting directors set up a game, rather disturbing in its realism: they put money on the table and asked the child to think of something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away. The director would pretend to catch the child, and the child would have to come up with a lie. “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 says. “When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came flooding back.” Jolie then tears up. “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.”

Presumably all the losers in this ugly contest got an all-expenses paid trip back to the slums from whence they’d came. And what of the local stage school kids who’ve trained to act – because it’s all about pretending, right? Would Jolie pull a similar stunt in the US? Would poor children in Jolie’s native LA be used to make the stinking rich, self-aggrandising narrator’s moralising resonate with purpose and meaning?

Angelina Jolie says she’s been misrepresented. She responds:

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.

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.

Is grandstanding and ‘raising awareness’ better than coming up with solutions and handing over cash? Jolie’s work is a movie, something she hopes people in her homeland will spend their leisure time and money watching. Celebrity colonialism might well make viewers and fans in rich countries take notice of stuff in poorer places but is there a shred of evidence it changes lives other than those lucky enough to make it on the plane to the land of make believe?



Posted: 30th, July 2017 | In: Celebrities, Film, Key Posts, News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink