The Controversy Over Angelina Jolie’s Directorial Debut

by Melissa Silverstein on November 30, 2010

in Actresses,Women Directors,Women Writers

Angelina Jolie has been in Europe over the last couple of months filming her still untitled directorial debut a love story that she wrote about a Bosnian Muslim woman and a Serbian man.  Tough stuff to begin with but the shoot has not been easy politically.  First, she couldn’t get the permit to film in Sarajevo.  Then, she got the permit (because the culture minister read the script and approved it) and was supposed to film for 10 days in Sarajevo but protests caused the days to be cut back.  But the controversy continued and Jolie pulled out from going to Sarajevo and was going to have the second unit director handle that segment.

I’m not a fan of people being bullied out of doing their job before seeing the script especially with the track record that Jolie has on issues related to refugees.  This is Angelina Jolie we are talking about here.  This is a woman who has dedicated her life to making the world aware of issues that are so easily ignored. This is not Roman Polanski making a film about date rape.  And I would venture that even though the film is produced by Graham King it’s most probably not a big budget Hollywood flick.  It’s a vanity project that she gets to make so that she signs on to King’s next big action flick.  That happens all the time with the boys.  George Clooney does his small films and his big films.  It’s good that a woman gets the opportunity too.   I just feel it makes no sense to demonize her and her film before reading the script and seeing the movie.

The latest twist is that Bosnian rape victims group The Women Victims of War have called for a meeting with Jolie to iron out issues about the film.  They are very upset about the fact that the film could have (nobody really knows) a woman fall in love with her rapist.   The group said that they were “deeply concerned” about the film.  Then they went even further and called her “ignorant” and are asking the UN to remove her as an ambassador.

I’m really surprised that things have gotten this bad.  Where are the publicists?  Why haven’t these women seen a script to allay their fears?  Maybe their fears can’t be allayed.  A meeting was supposed to be arranged between the group and Jolie in Hungary where she is filming but the group refused to go wanting her to come to Bosnia.  I think that goes a bit far.  Jolie already was basically told not to show up and now they want her to walk in their for a meeting?  Really?

I don’t dismiss the women’s claims at all, they are looking to have a voice about an important situation that has been virtually forgotten in the intervening decade but calling for the UN to strip Jolie’s status as a representative on UNHCR makes no logical sense.

Someone’s got to intervene and soon cause this might be one situation where the old adage all publicity is good publicity might not be true.

Bosnian wartime rape victims slam ‘ignorant’ Jolie (AFP)

Bosnian Rape Victims Protest Angelina Jolie Movie in Letter to U.N. (HR)

Angelina Jolie scales back filming plans in Bosnia (LA Times)


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jihad Punk 77 November 30, 2010 at 10:23 AM

I’m so glad you have covered this issue. I felt like I was the only one really bothered by the media so quick to demonize Jolie’s directorial debut.

I really doubt that Jolie would make a film glorifying falling in love with a rapist. This is a woman who’s been an advocate for refugees and humanitarian causes. and from her excellent remarks on SALT and action roles for women, she sounds like a feminist, too.

I’m rooting for her and I’m glad to see an A-list female movie star going behind the camera.

Faye November 30, 2010 at 1:19 PM

I apologize in advance for this long rant.

Jolie, the producers, and the Minster of Culture who read the script have all gone on record to say that the film is not about and does not have a woman falling in love with her rapist. This woman who leads the Women Victims of War has an agenda and is using Angelina Jolie as a platform to be heard. I have read many a translated interviews by members of the Bosnian film society who have denounced this woman’s attack on Jolie. They know this woman to be spreading lies, they know this woman is potentially hurting their industry and one of them was bold enough to say on the record that she is using the horrible history of rape in wartime to hide behind her hateful rhetoric.

I’ve been following this story from the beginning. This woman’s group demanded, not asked but demanded to meet with Angelina. Angelina agreed. The group then changed their minds. Then the group demanded final say on the script. They wanted to right to change it as they saw fit.

I’ve been around long enough to know better but it still continually surprises me that I can find articles through a basic google search that call out this woman’s group for their twisted agenda, articles with clear quotes from the Ministry of Culture who says this story is not in any way shape or form about a woman falling in love with her rapist, and articles from respected actors, producers, etc from Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia who denounce this group’s agenda but these articles aren’t picked up on the blogs or the AP. Instead the links I see are similar to the ones that Melissa provides above. Where is the balance?

The following is a letter that Angelina sent to the group. It was released by the head of the group to the media with a most interesting and levelheaded (read sarcasm) response.

Angelina’s letter

The woman’s response, translated and paraphrased

“Angelina and her movie crew are more familiar with drug addiction than with pain and psychology of raped woman.They need to meet as soon as possible because expert team of their organization needs to review and explain to AJ how to edit and modify her script.”

Oh and this is one of the nicest responses I’ve seen from this woman.

I, as a fan, am proud of how Angelina has handled herself. I am proud that she has stepped out of her comfort zone and is directing her first film. I am proud that she didn’t go the easy route and direct some puff piece and I look forward to seeing this film when it comes out.

Faye November 30, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Sorry I forgot to thank Melissa for taking the time to write about this.

Thomai in L.A. December 1, 2010 at 8:55 PM

Thank you for writing on this issue. I’m looking forward to seeing Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut. I appreciate her presence in the film industry as well as her positions as activist and mother. I hope her directing career is as fruitful as Clint Eastwoods’ is.

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