Angelina Jolie: Actress, Filmmaker & Humanitarian

Today, FF2 is proud to celebrate a great actress and filmmaker who is also a renowned humanitarian. Ten years ago today, Angelina Jolie was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The prestigious award is given at the Governors Awards by AMPAS (the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) to a person within the film industry with an exceptional commitment to humanitarian endeavors. Although a celebrated movie star for decades, Angelina is just as well-known for her philanthropic efforts as for any of her many wonderful films. 

Angelina Jolie was born on June 4, 1975 in Los Angeles to actor parents Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand. Though appearing at only seven years old in Lookin’ to Get Out alongside her father, Angelina would not act in another film for eleven years. Instead, she focused on her education, studying acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, and attending Moreno High School. 

Throughout the early 90s, Angelina appeared in many music videos, as well as one direct-to-video sci fi. Then in 1995 came her breakthrough, when Angelina starred in Hackers, a grungy heist of the modern era. In Hackers, Angelina portrays a punky high school student with astounding hacking skills. Her performance was as intriguing as the character herself, and left audiences wanting more of the new star. Soon, Angelina skyrocketed to acting fame, and quickly became the “it” girl of Hollywood.

If you had asked me (a 2003 baby) to name any one actor or actress as a child, I would most likely have named Angelina. Her acting credits are numerous and exceptional. Over the course of her career, she has tackled roles in everything from serious dramas to animated family films. In serious roles, Angelina brings a signature depth. Her specific talent of acting with her eyes – conveying a thousand emotions in a single glance – brings the tragedy to such films as Girl, Interrupted and Changeling. Conversely, her fire and passion shines through such action roles in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Eternals. Her talent and professionalism both continue to defy genre decades into her career, and she has brought these talents with her into the world of directing.

Click on image to enlarge

2011’s In the Land of Blood and Honey – the directorial debut of a film also written by Angelina – follows two lovers split apart by the Bosnian war. FF2 Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner calls this a “brilliant debut” which successfully “pulls us into the heart of a terrifying recent conflict.” in fact, the theme of war connects three of Angelina’s four directing credits. It is easy to see that conflict is what transfixes her eye as a director. 

Next, Angelina directed, in quick succession, 2014’s Unbroken and 2015’s By the Sea. Though the former deals with life in a POW camp and the latter a disintegrating marriage, in each Angelina offers viewers glimpses of both desolation and hope. 

The director’s most recent credit, First They Killed My Father, centers war and desperation in Cambodia all from the perspective of a five year old girl. In her review of the film, FF2 contributor Lindsy Bissonnette wrote of Angelina’s directing: “As young Loung ages and matures… the camera ages and matures with her in this truly beautiful and connected film through clever camera angles and dreamlike sequences.”

Angelina herself did not stay in merely the role of viewer, or storyteller of grief. She took an active role in helping to create the world she wished to see.

In a Q&A for First They Killed My Father attended by Jan and Linsdy, Angelina spoke about her close relationship with Loung Ung (a human rights activist and author of the book upon which the film was based). Angelina also spoke of her relationship with Cambodia, its people, and her own frustration with the lack of action which persists in human rights catastrophes worldwide. When viewing her films, it is easy to see what has laid claim to Angelina’s heart, as an artist and as a human being. Her films are imbued with shock and anger, not only that atrocities are committed, but that the rest of the world simply watches. However, Angelina herself did not stay in merely the role of viewer, or storyteller of grief. Instead, she took an active role in helping to create the world she wished to see.

In 2001, after traveling to various refugee camps and donating $1 million to better the conditions of refugees within Pakistan, Angelina became a UNHCR goodwill ambassador. In the years since, she has traveled to places of crisis globally, often going into active war zones in order to meet in person with displaced people. In 2012, Angelina was named Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an esteemed position she maintained until 2022. The myriad of causes she has committed herself to include women’s rights, refugee rights, environmental conservation, education, an end to sexual violence, and a stop to genocide. 

It would be a supreme disservice to her to remember Angelina Jolie only for her movies, for her “it girl” status, or for her fame. 

Though Angelina has won numerous Golden Globes, SAGs, and even an Oscar, her contributions cannot be conveyed in awards alone. Yes, there are ways to make a difference in this world through storytelling and raising awareness. But, unequivocally, there is more difference to be made on the ground. Angelina Jolie has dedicated her life to more humanitarian efforts than can be conveyed in this article alone. It would be a supreme disservice to her to remember her only for her movies, for her “it girl” status, or for her fame. 

However, what sticks out most is not only her commitment, but her bravery. Her bravery to enter war torn areas and to speak what others would rather leave unsaid.  To speak so loudly as a woman is especially awe-inspiring. Her bravery inspires me, just as it inspires other women worldwide — some of those women literally still on this earth, and thus able to inspire and be inspired, because of the efforts of Angelina Jolie.

Thank you will never be enough, but thank you, Angelina.

© Reese Alexander (11/8/23) — Special for FF2 Media


Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s FF2 review of In the Land of Blood and Honey here.

Read Lindsy Bissonnette’s FF2 review of First They Killed My Father here.

Read Sophia Jin’s article on Angelina Jolie here.

Read about the NYC Q&A with Angelina and Loung Ung here.

Visit Angelina Jolie’s Wikipedia page here.


Featured Photo: Zana Marjanovic as “Ajla” in a scene from Angelina Jolie’s film In the Land of Blood and Honey.

Middle Photo:

Bottom Photo: Angelina Jolie with cinematographer Dean Semler on the set of In the Land of Blood and Honey.

Photo Credits: Ken Regan © 2011 GK Films. All Rights Reserved. (Editor’s Note: Both photos were included in the authorized EPK.)

Tags: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, AMPAS, Angelina Jolie, By the Sea, First They Killed My Father, Girl Interrupted, In the Land of Blood and Honey, Jan Lisa Huttner, Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Lindsy Bissonnette, Loung Ung, Sophia Jin, Unbroken, UNHCR, Zana Marjanovic

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Reese Alexander is currently a student at Barnard College, where she studies English literature, creative writing, and French. Reese enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction, and her work has been published in multiple campus publications, including Quarto, Echoes, The Barnard Bulletin, and The Columbia Federalist. Reese is most passionate about medieval literature, as she believes it illustrates the contributions of women artists throughout the centuries.
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