Jolie is currently set to release, with Netflix, her latest directorial project First They Killed My Father; an adaptation of a personal account by human rights activist (and Jolie’s close friend) Long Ung of her experiences as a child living in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge years.
The article states that Jolie “looked at orphanages, circuses, and slum schools, specifically seeking children who had experienced hardship” for the role of Long Ung, but that the casting directors devised a particular game for these children.
They placed money on a table, asking the child to think of something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away. The casting director would then pretend to catch the child, with the child being asked 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 tearfully said of the game. “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.”
The description has come under heavy criticism for its exploitative nature, and as to what film could be worth re-triggering a child’s deep trauma simply for the purposes of realistic acting. Though Jolie doesn’t appear to have been present, she doesn’t condemn the approach either.