Follow Scott Mendelson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ScottMendelson
Smoke, but No Fire: Bosnian Activist Group 'Women Victims of War' Attacks Angelina Jolie Over Made-up Concerns Regarding Her New Film
The headlines scream "Jolie called insensitive to Bosnian rape victims!" and "Angelina Jolie called ignorant by Women Victims of War." But if you read the story, and read their statement, it becomes quite clear that this group (however noble their work is up to this point) has used the media's obsession with smacking down big celebrities as a way to get their name in the newspapers. The gist is that Jolie is directing a drama set during the Bosnian war, around 1992-1995. It concerns a romantic plot involving a Serbian prison guard and a Bosnian captive, a woman who was once his girlfriend (sounds like the plot of the first "Sayid episode" in the first season of Lost). This tidbit has been tossed about as "proof" that Angelina Jolie is making a film about a rape victim who falls in love with her rapist. They have not seen the script and prior attempts by Jolie to set up a meeting with the group have been unsuccessful.
I'm guessing they haven't seen the script because they released the critical statement before they asked to see a script. The statement released seriously trashes Jolie (calling her ignorant and asking for her goodwill UN ambassadorship to be stripped) for making a movie that COULD contain insensitive and/or inflammatory material and COULD "make light" of the plight of Bosnian rape victims. This may just be an attempt for the group to gain free attention and/or get a donation from Jolie or the studio funding her picture. GLAAD pulled the same prank on Kevin Smith back in 2001, inexplicably calling (the otherwise lousy) Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back homophobic because its brain-dead lead character uses "gay" as an asexual negative slur (never mind that he is explicitly called out on that in the film). Smith quickly cut them a check and the matter was never brought up again. Extortion: 01, Honest examination of the issue at hand: 00.
And since the media jumped all over a story that let them spin a headline to the effect of "Jolie called insensitive to Bosnian rape victims," they fell for it without realizing that there was no meat to the story. The crux of their protests is that Jolie should have been expected to keep this specific group informed in every part of the filmmaking process, from screenwriting to casting to location scouting. Never mind that Jolie tried to set up a meeting in Hungary, but the group refused, wanting the meeting to take place in Bosnia (which is ironic, since such earlier "controversy" prevented the film from actually shooting first-unit footage in Bosnia). Furthermore, even if the script does not contain a "rapist and rape victim fall in love" subplot (which it allegedly does not), the group is still adamant that simply presenting a film involving a romantic narrative set in such a camp is unacceptable and has caused the group "mental suffering."
Angelina Jolie has every right to make whatever movie she wants. As we critics and scholars always say, it's not "what it's about," but rather "how its about it." Let's be honest, had internet culture existed in 1993, Spielberg would have been roasted by groups demonizing Schindler's List sight unseen because it "was alleged to contain" a subplot involving romance between a Jewish camp laborer (Embeth Davidtz) and her Nazi captor (Ralph Fiennes). Is that an accurate portrayal of the movie? Nope. But it's close enough to the truth to make a scandalizing story out of it. It's tough to criticize something called "Women Victims of War" and the work they theoretically do, but the group is playing dirty pool.
To somewhat viciously attack someone who has been a "get-your-hands-dirty" advocate for refugees around the world because of their (at this point) fabricated concerns about sympathetic treatment of rapists contained in a film they haven't seen, from a script they haven't read, is absurd and counterproductive. Unless of course, the purpose is not honest activism but merely using Jolie's celebrity as a way to get extra media attention. If that's the case, then it's Free Publicity From a Sensationalist Media: 01, Honest Examination of the Issues at Hand: 00.