movies

Angelina Jolie's casting technique has been called a "gross deception of children".

For the all the good she may do for those who don’t share her wealth, security and first-world existence, Angelina Jolie’s curious casting process for her new film is drawing considerable criticism from those who are accusing her of “manipulating” poverty-stricken children.

This month, Jolie is on the press junket for her newest film, First They Killed My Father, which is an adaption of a memoir written by Loung Ung about the horrors of Pol Pot’s regime.

However in an interview with Vanity Fair, Jolie gave unique insight into how she found the lead actress for the film, saying they gave young Cambodian girls wads of cash before taking it away and analysing their subsequent reaction.

This, from Vanity Fair‘s journalist Evgenia Peretz:

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.

It seemed Jolie wasn’t alarmed by the strange kind of experiment young, vulnerable, poverty-stricken children were put through:

“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.”

Jolie had reportedly looked in orphanages and slum schools on a mission to find children to star in the movie who had experienced hardship, loss and gross misfortune.

Backlash was as swift as it was fierce. Jolie was accused of “taunting” and “traumatising” young, vulnerable children with a distinct inability to consent to the ‘experiment’ they were apart of.

angelina jolie family
ADVERTISEMENT

According to Karen Flanagan, Save the Children Australia’s Child Protection Advocate, there are a number of issues at play here.

"From a child protection perspective, we would have concerns about the potential exploitation of very vulnerable children," Flanagan told Mamamia.

"The first thing to question would be who consented to the children being there in that room. If the family consented, I would like to see proof of that. If they children were from an orphanage, the duty of care is on those in charge."

If these things are true - and from Jolie's quotes to Vanity Fair, both transpired - Flanagan argues it appears Jolie and her crew used "exploitative methodology" as a means of casting children for the film.

"There are much more respectful ways to go about hiring and casting these children," she said.

From Flanagan's perspective, there are a few ways Jolie could have made the process one that had the best interests of the children at heart.

"I don't know what the children were told, but I would [prefer] for all children to be given equal opportunity. Why were there only certain children in the room? Were certain children favoured?" she said.

Flanagan also took issue with the premise of Jolie's experiment. Firstly, if you're "rewarded" for lying, what does this tell children? Or, in her own words, "how do they make sense of that?"

Compounded with this was Jolie's admission that the young girl who was later chosen for the role was "overwhelmed with emotion" as a result of the experiment; one which Flanagan called a "confusing experience" and "gross deception of children".

More than anything, Flanagan argues that whoever allowed the children to be apart of it all exercised a "dereliction of duty of care".