First They Killed My Father is reportedly Angelina Jolie's most personal film till date. Donning the director's hat for this movie, First They Killed My Father is based on the 2000 memoir by Loung Ung of the Khmer Rouge genocide that rocked Cambodia, killing two of Ung's siblings and her parents.
The movie tells the story of what life was like when the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot was in power. Approximately two million Cambodians apart from Ung's family members also perished in this period which left a dark mark on Cambodian history. Cambodia is a place that has proven to be deeply cathartic for Jolie, as it is where she adopted her first child, son Maddox, and restarted her life.
First They Killed My Father is a Netflix original movie, and is the largest production that Cambodia has seen since it was hit with war, having been shot entirely in the country.
It is reported that a strange method was used during the shooting of this movie, in order to draw the deepest, realest and most raw emotions from the actors of the movie. The technique involved giving money to an impoverished Cambodian child and subsequently taking it away as the child was "overwhelmed with emotion", which is how the girl —Srey Moch who was finally selected for the lead role in the movie — was awarded the part, according to an interview Jolie gave to Vanity Fair.
"Srey Moch was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time.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 further added.
Jolie reportedly looked at children from "orphanages, circuses and slum schools" — and place where the young ones would have "experienced hardship" — to audition for Loung Ung's role, she said in the same Vanity Fair interview.
This particular section of the Vanity Fair interview earned Jolie the criticism of many on Twitter, with users calling the casting technique cruel and comparing it to the Hunger Games.
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) July 27, 2017
N this crazy news week u prob missed the f'd up story of how Angelina Jolie played orphan hunger games 2 cast a film https://t.co/4dYOSTY1W6 pic.twitter.com/HFeoA9lU9F — Sam Sanders (@samsanders) July 28, 2017
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) July 26, 2017
Started reading that Vanity Fair article about Angelina Jolie and... I don't think I'll make it to the part about the Cambodian children. 😐 pic.twitter.com/pBv5qRE9OM
— FJ Thomas (@fjthom) July 29, 2017