As part of our Tribute Series, FF2 Media celebrates the work of female filmmakers. Be sure to click on the film titles for full reviews & see where you can stream on JustWatch.com.
Angelina Jolie is a name everyone recognizes. As one of the world’s most famous actors, who has also worked in directing and writing, she has a large portfolio of films. Jolie was born on June 4, 1975 in Los Angeles, California, making her first appearance on screen at the age of seven in Lookin’ to Get Out, working alongside her father, actor Jon Voight. By 16, she was acting in the low-budget production of Cyborg 2, followed by her first lead in the 1995 film Hackers. Often criticized for her “dark” demeanor, Jolie carved out her own successful path acting, directing and humanitarian work.
Angelina Jolie’s career started to blossom after winning a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture for TV for George Wallace (1997), a film about the life of the segregationist Alabama Governor and presidential candidate. Portraying Wallace’s second wife, Cornelia, the role garnered Jolie an Emmy Award nomination. However, her major breakthrough was in the film Gia (1998), where she portrayed the supermodel Gia Carangi, which follows the story of the deterioration of the model’s life and career due to her heroin addiction, sickness, and ultimate death from AIDs in the mid 1980s. This film won her another Golden Globe Award for the second year in a row, another Emmy Award nomination, and also gained her her first Screen Actors Guild Award. Of course, this film caused Jolie to gain huge recognition. This propelled a long and full career, boasting many successful films commercially and critically, including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Changeling. As an actress, Jolie has worked on films from female writers and directors, including franchises like Paramount Picture’s Kung Fu Panda and Disney’s Maleficent, Jolie’s highest-grossing projects.
Work as a Director
In 2011, Jolie began directing. The first of the four films directed by her was The Land of Blood and Honey. It is a film about two lovers on opposite sides of conflict in the Bosnian War. Their once strong and promising connection now changes along with their motivation. FF2 Media gave the film a perfect score, with Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner calling it a “brilliant debut from Angelina Jolie who wrote the screenplay and directed authentic cast members speaking their own languages.”
Her 2014 film, Unbroken, followed WWII hero Louis Zamperini and his weeks-long survival on a raft and subsequent capture by the Japanese into a prisoner-of-war camp. Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s best-seller and co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Unbroken opened on Christmas Day and grossed a worldwide total of $163 million (with a budget of $65 million). Although Rolling Stone opened their review with “Angelina Jolie does justice to the story of Olympic runner-turned-POW,” not all reception to Jolie’s work has been positive.
While FF2 Media has been a constant champion of her work as a director, many (mostly male) critics have the opposite reaction. According to our Rotten Tomatoes analysis from 2013, Huttner writes, “Jolie is one of the best-known women in Planet Earth, so you wouldn’t think she would need any kudos from little me and yet the numbers say otherwise: 19 out of 20 female film critics (= 95%) gave In the Land of Blood & Honey a ‘Fresh’ rating; 33 out of 57 male film critics (= 58%) gave this film a ‘Rotten’ rating. Because male critics outnumber female critics by more than 2 to 1, the RT ‘consensus’ is that In the Land of Blood & Honey is ‘Rotten.’”
Even so, Jolie continued directing with By the Sea (2015), following the story of a troubled couple staying at a French seaside resort, followed by First They Killed my Father (2017), based on the film’s co-writer Loung Ung’s memoirs of the genocidal violence, child conscription, and labour camps of Cambodia in the 1970s. Despite positive reception after its Netflix debut, people across the world continued to question why a woman who had been once labeled “most beautiful” was equipped to tell this story. Though she is a strong-willed individual with a commitment to humanitarian aid, “her work has still been erased, ignored, talked down, picked apart in countless petty ways and ultimately dismissed.” But “regardless of how loud the male voice is yelling about this film, women are showing up to represent and support these [Jolie and Ung] female filmmakers” FF2 Media wrote in an article after a September 2017 screening of the film in New York.
Jolie’s work expresses a passion to bring about awareness and to stop injustice towards women and children. She focuses on things that people normally shun or tend to look away from. This makes her an inspiration—she isn’t afraid to talk about what needs to be heard. Her attention to things that are triggering should be commended. It is amazing to see such an empowering woman, who is hugely well-loved by the public, use her talent to help the world become a better place.
Since reviews of her work have mostly been written by men, namely the New York Times, New York Post, Rolling Stone, and other big newspapers or magazines, it is important for these films to also have female critics and female viewers – for women to be able to voice their opinions. The world needs more people such as Angelina Jolie to help extend the voices of those who aren’t heard and to help the less fortunate.
Work as a Humanitarian
Aside from her on and offscreen career, Jolie is an active humanitarian who is deeply involved in international charity projects, specifically those concerning refugees. When filming one of the Lara Croft movies in Cambodia, she witnessed the natural beauty of the location, but also its heartbreaking reality filled with poverty. Jolie considered this a harsh awakening, which encouraged her to begin the humanitarian chapter of her life. She started visiting refugee camps, and said that “one of the first camps I went to had 400,000 people. It was a sea of human misery… I discovered that I was useful as a person.” She was appointed the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Some of her experiences were recorded in a popular book “Notes from My Travels” — of which all proceeds go to the UNHCR.
Jolie has stated that she wanted to spend more time and efforts on humanitarian projects, which is funded by her salary from acting. She spends a third of her income on charities. In 2002 she adopted a boy, Maddox, who was a Cambodian refugee, and in 2003 she adopted a girl, Zahara, an Ethiopian refugee. As time progressed, she had four more children, one adopted from Vietnam and three of her own.
© Sophia Jin (4/29/20) FF2 Media
Featured photo: Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung film First They Killed my Father (2017) Credit: Netflix