TORONTO (Reuters) - Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie says she never intended to step behind the camera, but traveling around the world for the United Nations opened her eyes to the conflicts that have inspired many of her most recent films.
“I never thought I could make a movie or direct,” Jolie told an audience at the Toronto Film Festival on Sunday, which is screening her Cambodian genocide film “First They Killed My Father” and Afghan film “The Breadwinner.”
Jolie said her first major film as a director, the 2011 Bosnian war drama “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” was prompted by her humanitarian work as a special envoy for the United Nations refugee agency.
“I wanted to learn more about the war of Yugoslavia. I had been in the region and traveling in the UN. It was a war I really couldn’t get my head around. ... It was not a goal to become a director,” she said.
“The Breadwinner,” an animated film that she produced, is about a young Afghan girl who cuts her hair and poses as a boy in order to feed her family.
It “tells the sad reality of many girls having to work and not go to school,” said Jolie, who has made several trips to Afghanistan.
“The people I have met over the years are truly my heroes. The nice thing about being a director is to champion other people,” Jolie added.
Jolie said “First They Killed My Father,” was inspired by wanting to learn more about the history of Cambodia, the birthplace of her son Maddox, one of her six children.
She said she wanted “Maddox to learn about himself as a Cambodian in a different light.”
The film, which was screened in Cambodia earlier this year, tells the story of a young girl during the country’s 1970s genocide who is forced into the countryside to toil in rice paddies and then take up arms as a child soldier.
Jolie, 42, who won a supporting actress Oscar for “Girl, Interrupted” in 2000, shrugged off her status as a role model for women.
“I have a lot to learn and need role models myself,” she said.
Reporting by Chris Arsenault; editing by Jill Serjeant and Jonathan Oatis