In her first foray into writing and directing, Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie chose to shine a spotlight on a country that has been stricken by years of genocide and incredible violence.
Jolie's film, "In the Land of Blood and Honey," due out in theatres on Dec. 23, tells the story of the Bosnian conflict from both sides of the racial divide, and how the Bosnian people were changed forever after their homeland was ripped apart by war in the 1990s.
"I was thinking and meditating on these international themes of violence against women, lack of intervention, and how human beings are changed and warped by war, and how some people come out stronger and some people are truly broken," Jolie told "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour, who covered the Bosnian conflict in the 1990's. "There's no safe way to tackle these subject matters, but I think the important thing is to discuss them and tackle them."
As a Goodwill ambassador to the United Nations and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Jolie has traveled many times to some of the world's most war-torn and impoverished countries. She said she didn't intentionally choose Bosnia for the setting of her debut film, but said the more she researched the Bosnian conflict, the more she was taken by it.
"This is our generation's war. … this was, you know, the worst genocide since World War II in Europe," she said. "It was-- 'what were we all doing?' And 'did we do enough' and 'why do we not speak about this enough' and 'why I don't know enough about this?' And so I wanted to learn. I felt a responsibility to learn."
The actress said it felt "bizarre" to play the role of the writer and the director, but added that it was "great not to be in front of the camera." Jolie said "writing is the hardest because it feels the most exposed."
"When you're an actress, you use somebody else's words and you can always blame the director and the director can say the editor," she said. "But the writer is the one that kind of sits alone in the room and writes what they think is important, funny, historical, topical."
The entire cast of "In the Land of Blood and Honey" is made up of locals from the region because this was "their story," Jolie said. The actress added that she even kept her name a secret when they first sent the script to the cast, because she said she wanted an honest reaction from the people who had lived through the war.
"If we sent this script out and actors read it and said 'this is irresponsible' or 'this is inappropriate,' then I wouldn't have done it," Jolie said. "I would have shelved and burnt it."
Actresses Zana Marjanovic and Vanessa Glodjo, who star in the film, told Amanpour they were touched by Jolie's script when they read it, which they said didn't soften the conflict as other films have.
"When I read the script, it was -- I had knives in my chest, in my stomach," Glodjo said. "And I said, 'My God. What is this? What is this really? It's so strong.'"
Both actresses said they hope "In the Land of Blood and Honey" reminds people of what their country went through during the Bosnian conflict.
"Our fear is that people won't know what happened and being ignorant about what happened leaves a chance that it may happen again," she said. "Hopefully, if it changes or opens up the view of one person, we did a great thing."