“They can hear kids crying in the jungle”: Angelina Jolie’s Supernatural Experience in Cambodia Made Her Entire Cast Stop Filming Out of Fear

Angelina Jolie has amazed cinephiles not just as an actress but also as a filmmaker. Known for having helmed critically favored endeavors, the 48-year-old Hollywood star once revealed a goosebumps-inducing behind-the-scenes experience while filming the 2017 Cambodian–American Khmer-language movie titled First They K:illed My Father. 

Angelina Jolie directed First They Killed My Father (2017)

Angelina Jolie directed First They K:illed My Father (2017)

Making an appearance on 2018’s Close Up with The Hollywood ReporterDirector’s Roundtable, Jolie was asked whether she gets affected by the prospect of directing in the same way she gets emotionally influenced by music or films. This prompted her to discuss how the 2017 biographical thriller impacted her personally.

How Angelina Jolie’s 2017 Film Affected Her

Angelina Jolie

The actress shared her experiences of directing the 2017 film.

First They K:illed My Father (2017) is based on Loung Ung’s memoir of the same name. The Cambodian-American human-rights activist additionally penned the screenplay for the film alongside Jolie. The narrative delves into the abhorrent events that Loung Ung and her family suffered while living in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. The film was released on Netflix and earned an 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics appreciating the elegance and care with which the sensitive subject matter was addressed.

On the 2018 edition of THR’s Director’s Roundtable, Angelina Jolie revealed how the film impacted her personally. Following is what she had to say:

“In Cambodia, this is a subject matter that has been debated. This history is not known internationally. It’s not known and it’s something that has made me upset when I was in [the] country. I’ve seen how it affects the people. And I have a son who deserves to know his history. I want him to know what his birth parents went through.” 

She voiced her initial concerns. Her involvement in the project made her question if she was the right person for the job. Jolie wondered whether she was good enough. Nevertheless, the actress affirmed that she was grateful and honored to be embraced in another culture. The Lara Croft: Tomb Raider alum then revealed that the film will allow the young population in Cambodia to learn about their history.

The Supernatural Experience Angelina Jolie Faced In Cambodia

A still from First They Killed My Father

A still from First They K:illed My Father

The filmmaker was asked what changed within her while filming the 2017 historical thriller. In response, the actress shared an eerie yet exceptionally poignant anecdote. She recounted shooting a scene at night in a jungle where the production needed to set off explosions. All of them were expected to run alongside the children on set. The logistical aspect of the sequence was daunting, as Jolie informed the team about the little time they had with the kids partaking in the film.

They managed to get everything in place, and the explosion went off. Unfortunately, it wasn’t big enough. Angelina Jolie realized they needed to repeat the routine and was preparing to assemble the youngsters when something unexpected happened. Following is what the actress stated:

“Suddenly, somebody said they can hear children crying in the jungle. We didn’t have enough lights to light up the jungle. And there are landmines in the country. I said, ‘Gather the children. We gotta count the kids.’ We counted the kids and everybody was there.”

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie’s chillingly moving anecdote

She was then told of what had truly transpired. It wasn’t the children on the set who were sobbing. The crying emerged from the spirits of the ancestors who met their demise on that land: 
“And then, somebody came up to me and they said, ‘We are Buddhist. People died on this land. They’re hearing crying because it’s the spirit of the ancestors and you blew a tree.’ We stopped production, and I got incense and water and got on my knees with the rest of them.”

In an attempt to honor the spirits of the ancestors and respect the land they were filming on, Jolie and her crew got down on their knees and thought about the individuals who had been there before. The director reevaluated her goals, determining that she needed to remind herself of why the production crew was on Cambodian soil in the first place. They briefly paused everything. When they resumed work, everything went smoothly.

The experience taught Angelina Jolie to recognize her responsibilities beyond the role of a filmmaker in a different country. She was also able to understand her obligations as a fellow human being.

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