Famous actors make their directorial debuts all the time, but it's doubtful any will be more high-profile and polarizing this year than Angelina Jolie's. The Oscar-winner has been working on hers since last year and been having a devil of a time, mostly because of its subject matter. But the film is nearing the finish line: "Land of Milk and Honey" will be coming out December 23.
As for the subject matter, well, let's return to November 2010 and an article in The Guardian that chronicled her troubles:
Jolie started shooting her directorial debut -- a love story between a Muslim woman and a Serb man set during the country's civil war in the early '90s -- in Bosnia in October. The problems began when local media reported the film featured scenes in which a Bosnian rape victim falls in love with her Serbian attacker. Jolie soon came in for criticism from Bosnia's Association of Women Victims of War after she failed to meet members to discuss the stories. The allegations temporarily saw authorities withdrawing permission for the actor to shoot in the country, though the green light was eventually given after Gavrilo Grahovac, the Bosnian culture minister, saw a screenplay.
Since then, Jolie has been working on the film away from the media's glare, although the downside is that now most everybody refers to it as "Jolie's Bosnia movie" or, worse, "Jolie's rape movie." Normally, anything associated with Angelina Jolie would have to like its box office chances, but her directing debut will have to fight off a certain amount of baggage because of its heavy, controversial themes.
That's probably why the film has settled on a rather tame title -- and why in a statement today (via Vulture) about the film's release Jolie said, "The film is specific to the Bosnian War, but it's also universal. I wanted to tell a story of how human relationships and behavior are deeply affected by living inside a war." You'll notice there's nothing in there about rape.
Still, Jolie and FilmDistrict (which is putting out the film) have to know that "Land of Milk and Honey" will be a tough sell. Because of her activist leanings and relationship with Brad Pitt, Jolie gets plenty of media attention, which brings with it a lot of criticism that she's too outspoken. Plus, she doesn't star in her own film: It will consist of largely unknowns. And, yes, there is the subject matter. If the storyline is indeed what The Guardian described last year, we're already anticipating a thousand angry op-ed pieces coming our way in the months before its release. Depending on your feelings toward Ms. Jolie, you may be tired of "Land of Milk and Honey" before you even have a chance to see it.
Angelina Jolie Film About Bosnian War to Be Released in December [ArtsBeat/The New York Times