Thursday, August 3, 2017




Random Fuzzy


The point of contention centers around this line from VF:

In order to find their lead, to play young Loung Ung, the casting directors set up a game, rather disturbing in its realism: they put money on the table and asked the child to think of something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away. The director would pretend to catch the child, and the child would have to come up with a lie.

Compare to what Angelina said in the transcript:

But it was very hard to find a little Loung. And so it was what they call a slum school. I don’t think that’s a very nice word for it, but a school for kids in very poor areas. And I think, I mean they didn’t know. We just went in and—you just go in and do some auditions with the kids. And it’s not really an audition with children. We had this game where it would be—and I wasn’t there and they didn’t know what they were really doing. They kind of said, “Oh, a camera’s coming up and we want to play a game with you.” And the game for that character was “We’re going to put some money on the table. Think of something that you need that money for.” Sometimes it was money, sometimes it was a cookie. [Laughter] “And then take it.” And then we would catch them. “We’re going to catch you, and we’d like you to try to lie that you didn’t have it.”  So it was very interesting seeing the kids and how they would—some were very conscious of the camera.


- Releasing the transcript may be what her lawyer wanted all along.  The statement that her lawyer asked VF to print is totally supported by the transcript.

“The casting crew showed the children the camera and sound recording material, explaining to them that they were going to be asked to act out a part. . . . The children were not tricked as some have suggested. . . . All of the children auditioning were made aware of the fictional aspect of the exercise and were tended to at all times by relatives or guardians from NGOs. . . . We apologize for any misunderstanding.”

The most important issue to Angelina was apparently that the children knew it was make believe and that they were acting for a camera.  That they were not tricked and that a cruel trick was not played on impoverished orphans.

The transcript makes it clear that the scenario was described to the children, that they were told it was "pretend," that they were informed of the camera beforehand and were in fact conscious that they were "acting" on camera.  The writer didn't mention the camera at all -- which was a major omission.


The VF account suggested that the children didn't know they were only being asked to pretend to take the "money" and didn't indicate that the children knew beforehand that the casting directors would pretend to catch them. This was the main focus of the outrage that ensued.  In addition, it was the writer's own statement that the "game" was "disturbing in its realism" that set people up to think it was a real scenario.


- That "Sometimes it was money, sometimes it was a cookie" emphasizes that it was make believe.


- It also helps support Angelina's statement. 

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. "

- They wrote "V.F. stands by Peretz’s story as published."

Recall that last Sunday, AP wrote:

A representative from Vanity Fair issued a statement Sunday saying that author Evgenia Peretz “clearly describes what happened during the casting process as a ‘game’ ” and “that the filmmakers went to extraordinary lengths to be sensitive in addressing the psychological stresses on the cast and crew that were inevitable in making a movie about the genocide carried out in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge.”
Their point was that Peretz's story contained enough info in support of the first part of Angelina's statement:
Every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of the children on the film starting from the auditions through production to the present.  Parents, guardians, partner NGOs whose job it is to care for children, and medical doctors were always on hand everyday, 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 recreation of such a painful part of their country’s history
But its Peretz's account of the audition itself that is at issue here and what she said in the rest of the story did not do anything to prevent the misconceptions that resulted from it.


- The only question that is not clear from the transcript is whether any real money was ever placed before the children although the fact that they sometimes used a cookie suggests that it was never real.


- The transcript also seems to show that Angelina herself didn't entirely approve of the exercise:  "I wasn’t there and they didn’t know what they were really doing."


- As anyone who has watched a video of her interviews knows, Angelina's thoughts appear to run ahead of her sentences and she leaves a lot of sentences dangling.  Because it is only an excerpt, it is not clear to some people who she was referring to when she said "they didn't know."

And I think, I mean they didn’t know. We just went in and—you just go in and do some auditions with the kids. And it’s not really an audition with children. We had this game where it would be—and I wasn’t there and they didn’t know what they were really doing. They kind of said, “Oh, a camera’s coming up and we want to play a game with you.”

Some thought she was referring to the children but I think it's pretty clear "they" were the casting directors who ran the auditions since she repeats it and in the next sentence she said, "They kind of said, “Oh, a camera’s coming up and we want to play a game with you.”


- I wrote previously:

It was the writer's responsibility as a journalist to make certain that she reported and described things accurately.  She did not have a complete understanding of the exercise and it behooved her to seek clarification especially since she wrote that she found it "rather disturbing in its realism."  It seems she was not aware the premise was based on Luong Ung's real life experience and is a scene in the movie.   She had six weeks to get all the facts right but she obviously didn't think the subject, which she only devoted a short paragraph to, was important enough.  If she understood and wrote clearly that everyone was pretending, it would have greatly altered the perception of the exercise.  This could have been done with a simple edit of what she wrote.

- For background, Angelina's statement was released Saturday, July 29.  VF's first statement was released Sunday, July 30, her lawyer contacted VF Tuesday, Aug. 1, and they posted their response late Thursday, Aug. 4.

They took their time and undoubtedly deliberated this thoroughly with their legal counsel. 

I would guess that VF felt that their writer did not print anything that was outright false and they could not be accused of maliciously trying to malign her -- which is true.  The problem was that what she omitted from her write-up made it misleading.  But they apparently didn't think it was serious enough to compel them to issue a retraction and apology.  They may have feared setting a precedent and losing editorial control.  And so they printed the transcript to let people decide for themselves along with their statement that in essence said they concluded they were not at fault.


VF would have been very aware that their public statement in response to a private request puts them at risk of seriously damaging, if not entirely severing, ties with one of their most lucrative cover stars.  There are, after all, many publications she can work with including the less prominent publications who would see a huge boost in traffic.  Brad's interview set records for GQStyle.


- They've continued to work with People (which recently got the photo of Angelina and Shiloh at the Shiloh Sanctuary and the accompanying story as an exclusive) despite some clearly false and  objectionable posts that appeared both online and in print.  Those were arguably much worse than anything VF has written, so I can't say for certain that they'll never work with Vanity Fair again.  It was one of their favored sites and it was to VF that they confirmed that Angelina had entered escrow on the DeMille. 


- It is possible that Angelina is pressing her case because the casting directors, parents, NGOs etc. felt maligned by the attacks which imply that they were not doing their job looking after the children's welfare during the auditions.  Her lawyer asked that VF say "We apologize for any misunderstanding.”  He didn't ask for an apology directed to Angelina.  After initially wanting to delay a response to the attacks, it seems unusual that she would suddenly turn around and now be ready to ratchet things up. 


- She may have asked her lawyer to contact VF instead of having any other rep do it because they may have been trying to mollify aggrieved parties who wanted to initiate legal action. 


- I expect that Angelina's lawyer would, at the very least, respond to VF to point out where the transcript supports their contentions. Some publications saw the obvious difference we cited above, some (most) entertainment publications need to be spoon fed. 


This is not going to be the last word.


Angelina still has her Harper's Bazaar spread and will have numerous interviews from Telluride and TIFF.  She will have very public platforms from which her answers can gain wide circulation.



-- Fussy

******


Our September cover story, “A Life in Bold,” a portrait of actress Angelina Jolie by contributing editor Evgenia Peretz, has been the subject of some controversy, specifically the paragraph that follows, which describes the casting of Cambodian children in Jolie’s upcoming film, First They Killed My Father:
“To cast the children in the film, Jolie looked at orphanages, circuses, and slum schools, specifically seeking children who had experienced hardship. In order to find their lead, to play young Loung Ung, the casting directors set up a game, rather disturbing in its realism: they put money on the table and asked the child to think of something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away. The director would pretend to catch the child, and the child would have 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 says. ‘When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came flooding back.’ Jolie then tears up. ‘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.’”
Some reporters and readers raised concerns about the casting process. Jolie responded in a statement, saying the audition had been taken out of context, and added she was upset that “a pretend exercise in an improvisation . . . had been written about as if it was a real scenario.” She also stated “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.”

On August 1, Jolie’s lawyer contacted V.F., saying Peretz had “mistakenly” reported the incident, and asked us to run a statement, excerpts of which follow: “The casting crew showed the children the camera and sound recording material, explaining to them that they were going to be asked to act out a part. . . . The children were not tricked as some have suggested. . . . All of the children auditioning were made aware of the fictional aspect of the exercise and were tended to at all times by relatives or guardians from NGOs. . . . We apologize for any misunderstanding.”

Jolie’s lawyer also asked us to remove the original paragraph from the online version of Peretz’s story and to publish the above statement prominently, with the title “Angelina Jolie Correction” in the October edition of V.F. and also on VF.com.

In response to these requests, V.F. reviewed the transcript and audiotape of Peretz’s interview with Jolie for the story. Peretz had recorded it on two devices. A transcript of the relevant section is reproduced below.
AJ: But it was very hard to find a little Loung. And so it was what they call a slum school. I don’t think that’s a very nice word for it, but a school for kids in very poor areas.
And I think, I mean they didn’t know. We just went in and—you just go in and do some auditions with the kids. And it’s not really an audition with children. We had this game where it would be—and I wasn’t there and they didn’t know what they were really doing. They kind of said, “Oh, a camera’s coming up and we want to play a game with you.” And the game for that character was “We’re going to put some money on the table. Think of something that you need that money for.” Sometimes it was money, sometimes it was a cookie. [Laughter] “And then take it.” And then we would catch them. “We’re going to catch you, and we’d like you to try to lie that you didn’t have it.”
So it was very interesting seeing the kids and how they would—some were very conscious of the camera. They were actually—there are so many talented kids in this country. But Srey Moch was the only child that stared at that money for a very, very long time before she picked it up, and then bravely, brazenly lying, like was trying to hide, but then she also kind of—
EP: Wait. This is the girl, Loung.
AJ: This is the girl. And then when she was forced to give it back became very kind of like strong, emotional, she became overwhelmed with emotion that she was—and she just—all of these different things flooded out. And I don’t think she or her family would mind me saying when she was later asked what that money was for, she said her grandfather died and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral.
After reviewing the audiotape, V.F. stands by Peretz’s story as published.


******


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