LOS ANGELES: Angelina Jolie built a ”spirit house” on the set for ‘First They Killed My Father’.
The 42-year-old actress-turned-director was ”conscious” of dragging up painful history for Cambodians in her movie about the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, so nothing was more important for her than being respectful of the souls of those who died in the genocide.
She said: ”We were conscious we were in the very country, on the very ground, where people were hurt and buried, and that we were recreating those times and a very particular negative energy, which is palpable for Cambodians, given they have such a strong sense of the spirits.
”Before we put actors in Khmer Rouge uniforms, we would have spirit houses on set, and incense and traditional offerings.”
And co-producer Rithy Panh recalled: ”She came to make a film with us. She loves Cambodia sincerely, with humility. One thing I remember that stays with me.
”She asked me if I could build a small spirit house on set. Sometimes she would put incense, just as we do, to pay respect to the spirits and the souls at the location where we were shooting. She did it so naturally.”
The movie is based on Loung Ung’s memoir of the same name, but also on conversations with those who had lived through the Khmer Rouge regime, and Angelina ensured she had a team of therapists on hand for the people, as many of them had ever opened up before.
She told the Sunday Times Culture magazine: ”Everything we learnt to make the film was something we were learning about the country itself – where the scars had settled, why we would need therapists on set – because so many people had never talked about their experiences before.”
And for Angelina, simply being able to make the film was a ”success”, regardless of how well it fares at the box office.
Asked if she ever doubted it would work, she said: ”Yes, I did. I was not sure, and so we stepped very lightly. For some films, making and releasing them is the success. For this film, being able to make it – having the ability to make it, and the country agreeing to it – was the success.”