Angelina Jolie on Bringing the Guerlain x UNESCO Women for Bees Programme to Cambodia

Over the years, working alongside the French magnificence home Guerlain, Angelina Jolie has discovered herself a perpetual scholar of bees. Last yr, in a radical gesture of being one with nature, she posed, bare-faced and stoic, for a National Geographic video as a lazy cloud of bees tiptoed throughout her physique. But an easier visible is contemporary in thoughts throughout a latest Zoom from her workplace in Los Angeles, as she lays out the significance of a wholesome bee inhabitants. “Thirty percent of our food is from pollinators—that says quite a lot,” Jolie explains, relaxed in an unfussy tank high. “There are some images where they show you, ‘Here’s your breakfast with the pollinators; here’s what goes away without the pollinators.’” She laughs on the youngsters’s museum nature of the illustration. “I like simple things like that. I’ve been educated so much, from UNESCO to scientists—but the kids’ plates work for me.” 

It’s the center of April after we communicate, a couple of weeks earlier than Jolie’s shock go to to the Ukrainian metropolis of Lviv, to satisfy with refugee households and assist employees. She is well-known for her work as a humanitarian, having served as a particular envoy to the UN refugee company since 2011. A more recent position is that of godmother to the Guerlain x UNESCO Women for Bees Programme, which launched in spring 2021 with an inaugural beekeeper coaching within the South of France and, as of right now, a second in Cambodia. The maternal title in some way appears becoming for a buzzing society revolving round a queen. “It’s nice that you point out it is familial-sounding, because it is,” says Jolie of the tight-knit initiative with an eye fixed to small-scale entrepreneurship. She considers it a privilege to “encourage and connect all of these extraordinary women, and help people understand the work that they’re doing—through to the science and the connection to biospheres and the cultural heritage.”

The program’s enlargement to Southeast Asia is one thing of a homecoming for Jolie. “Cambodia’s very dear to my heart, and it was where I became a mom,” she says, referring to her adopted son, Maddox. She first visited the nation in 2000, whereas filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—an eye-opening glimpse right into a area nonetheless scarred by battle. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than she began a nonprofit group (in Maddox’s title), which has been centered on eradicating land mines, curbing deforestation, and providing group assist with colleges and clinics. “Working with UNESCO, working with World Wildlife Federation, working with Flora & Fauna, we’re all there talking about how much can be protected because it goes so fast,” says Jolie. “So it was with a little bit of urgency that I wanted another program, even stronger, in there.” 

Jolie with the beekeepers in Cambodia.

Photograph by Ian Gavan/Courtesy of Guerlain.

The new six-month beekeeper coaching, in Phnom Penh, brings collectively 12 ladies, with a selected deal with the problems surrounding native honeybees. (In addition to environmental considerations, wild-honey searching can disrupt bee populations.) Earlier this yr, Jolie and a graduate of the 2021 program, Aggelina Kanellopoulou, visited Cambodia, partly to move alongside finest practices. “This network is very important,” says Jolie of that metaphorical cross-pollination, which she hopes sooner or later may materialize as honey jars on grocery retailer cabinets. “You have this sisterhood in other countries you can reach out to.” 

This immersion into all issues honey has invariably shifted Jolie’s relationship to the product. She explains by means of anecdote. “It happened to me when I worked in Cambodia on a film and we [spent time] in the rice fields. I did a course on how much it takes to get one grain of rice.” She likens the expertise to a Buddhist meditation. “A lot of us who live in cities, we don’t really think about what it takes to make any food that’s on our plate. So I see honey, and I think of all the efforts of the beekeepers, the bees themselves.” There’s gratitude and love, she laughs. “I put it in just about everything.” 

Ahead, Jolie is about to direct an adaptation of Alessandro Baricco’s Without Blood, a fable that facilities on a girl who brutally misplaced her father and brother in battle. It’s a recurring theme in her initiatives, following her 2017 movie First They Killed My Father, a few Cambodian woman compelled to grow to be a baby soldier throughout the reign of the Khmer Rouge. “I suppose I’m drawn to the extremes of the human condition—to just being human. I’m very human. I’m very flawed. I’m very raw,” she says, turning the lens inward. “We see the best and the worst of people in these kinds of situations.” If her earlier movie was an opportunity to reframe historical past—“I appreciated The Killing Fields growing up, but it wasn’t in Khmer, and the hero at the center wasn’t Cambodian”—the brand new mission isn’t a few explicit place. “And it’s not clear on who’s right and wrong or good and bad.” 

That blurred morality, coupled with the dizzying factors of concern lately, counts as quite a bit for even an grownup mind to contemplate. How does Jolie deal with such topics at house? “Some of my children are from countries of conflict. Pax is Vietnamese, and we had to adjust what he was being taught in history books,” she says. Her daughter, Zahara, is from Ethiopia, one other fraught place in the mean time. “So it’s not a new conversation in our home. But it’s continuing,” Jolie says, talking in regards to the horrific Ukraine headlines as one speaking level amongst many, citing the greater than 80 million individuals displaced globally. Some of Jolie’s youngsters have joined her at refugee camps all over the world. “I never wanted them to feel that this is about doing some service to someone,” she says, flipping into her maternal—or perhaps godmotherly—voice. “You should be honored to meet with strong, resilient people who are fighting against oppression and persecution, and get to meet them and be in any way in partnership with them to survive.”

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