Netflix just released the first trailer for “First They Killed My Father”, which is based on the memoir of Loung Ung of the same name and her experience under the Khmer Rouge.
The film, directed by Angelina Jolie, follows Ung as a child in Cambodia in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, took power and brought about the genocide that followed.
The Netflix production drew controversy over its casting methods in which Jolie and her casting director traveled to Cambodia to choose children who have gone through hardships.
According to a Vanity Fair story, the kids auditioning for the lead role played a “game” in which they were given money, asked to think of something they might need the money for, and then had it taken away from them.
“Srey Moch (the girl selected for the part) was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time,” Jolie told the magazine. “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.”
Netizens took to Twitter to express their anger, calling the method “monstrous” and “psychopathic”.
Jolie, who represented the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as a goodwill ambassador before becoming a special envoy in 2012, has since disputed the casting allegations.
“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 with Cambodian filmmaker and producer, Rithy Panh, according to HuffPost.
“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.
“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,” Jolie added.
“First They Killed My Father” is set to release on Netflix on September 15.