Dec. 5, 2011— -- 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."
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While she said she isn't expecting the film to be a box office hit, Jolie believes it was an important project to take on.
"We did it because we felt this is a war that isn't talked about enough," Jolie said. "I know it's a hard film to sit through, but it's two hours to sit through something that's very hard, and these people lived through it for many, many years, and it was many, many times worse than any reenactment could possibly be. And I feel like it's a gift and a duty to sit through two hours of what they lived through."
The star has garnered international fame for launching several revitalization projects in struggling countries, and famously adopting children from those regions, which she and actor Brad Pitt raise and homeschool together.
"I'm being very careful with their schooling, we're home-schooling especially when it comes to history, to make sure it's not one country's point of view of their country," Jolie said. "Because it has to be very balanced and they have to learn about their country so they can form their own conclusions."
The six children of the Jolie-Pitt household make up their own mini-United Nations of sorts. Aside from Pitt and Jolie's biological children, 5-year-old Shiloh and 3-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne, the family includes Maddox, 10, from Cambodia, Pax, 8, from Vietnam and Zahara, 6, from Ethiopia.
"I look at them and think what their birth parents must have gone through, what their birth grandparents would have done through, and so I feel connected to it," Jolie said. "It's a gift when you adopt a child from another country. This whole country enters your home."
Jolie and Pitt are often seen with their kids in tow. The star said the whole family travels together, wherever they go, and the kids are even always on location with them.
"It's so hard with family in this business so we take turns working, so whenever one of us works, the other makes sure they're there for the kids so we never have to split up the family," Jolie said. "If it's over five days, everybody's got to move in a big traveling mass."
Despite their megawatt stardom, Jolie said she and Pitt try to keep things "normal" and even have date nights together. Just like other couples, the actress admitted they have their differences in opinion, especially when it comes to politics. For one, Jolie said she and Pitt differ on the death penalty.
"I won't say whose side anyone is on, but it's the one, the thing nobody brings up at dinner because nobody wants us to go off on each other," she said. "But it's fun. It's a fun debate, you know? It's a good-- you want to be able to have -- to respect each other's views and to not be exactly-- we're not identical. We have-- we have strong views."
However, when asked if there were wedding bells in the future for her and Pitt, Jolie delicately dodged the question.
"The kids asked me the other day and I asked them if it was just because they wanted to have a 'big cake,'" she said, laughing. "They see movies that have the people getting married in the movies or somebody's, you know, the happily ever after. Shrek and Fiona are married."
"We've explained to them that our commitment when we decided to start a family was the greatest commitment you could possibly have. Once you have six children, you're…you're committed."
Jolie has starred in more than 30 films, earning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1999 film, "Girl, Interrupted." However, she said motherhood has changed her whole attitude about her career.
"I don't feel needed in a position of being an actor. I feel like I'm needed at home as a mom, and I'm hoping that I'll find other things," Jolie said. "I'd love to be able to write or direct or work on and produce more projects about issues dealing with situations that I feel passionate about."