The truth, Jolie said in a statement to The Huffington Post, is that the children were aware that it was a "pretend exercise" improvisation from an actual scene in the film, "First They Killed My Father," based on a survivor's memories of the Khmer Rouge killings in Cambodia in the 1970s. She added that she would be outraged herself if real money had been taken away from any kids, and the whole point of the film is to help protect children caught in the crossfire of war.
Rithy Panh, a Cambodian filmmaker and producer on the film, also called the criticism a "misunderstanding," and shared his own lengthy statement to set the record straight.
Here's the full statement from Angelina Jolie:
"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."
A source added to HuffPost that the children were aware they were improvising a scene, and no real money was involved.
Here's part of producer Rithy Panh's longer statement:
"I want to comment on recent reports about the casting process for Angelina Jolie's First They Killed My Father, which grossly mischaracterize how child actors were selected for the film, and I want to clear up the misunderstandings.
Because so many children were involved in the production, Angelina and I took the greatest care to ensure their welfare was protected. Our goal was to respect the realities of war, while nurturing everyone who helped us to recreate it for the film.
The casting was done in the most sensitive way possible. The children were from different backgrounds. Some were underprivileged; others were not. Some were orphans. All of the children were tended to at all times by relatives or carers from the NGOs responsible for them. The production team followed the families' preferences and the NGO organizations' guidelines. Some of the auditions took place on the NGOs' premises.
Great care was taken with the children not only during auditions, but throughout the entirety of the film's making. They were accompanied on set by their parents, other relatives or tutors. Time was set aside for them to study and play. The children's well-being was monitored by a special team each day, including at home, and contact continues to the present. Because the memories of the genocide are so raw, and many Cambodians still have difficulty speaking about their experiences, a team of doctors and therapists worked with us on set every day so that anyone from the cast or crew who wanted to talk could do so.
The children gave their all in their performances and have made all of us in the production, and, I believe, in Cambodia, very proud."
"First They Killed My Father" is scheduled for release on Netflix in 2017.
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Loung Ung is 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge assumes power over Cambodia in 1975. They soon begin a four-year reign of terror and genocide in which nearly 2 million Cambodians die. Forced from her family's home in Phnom Penh, Ung is trained as a child soldier while her six siblings are sent to labor camps. Read More