TORONTO • Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie never intended to step behind the camera.
But the trips around the world for the United Nations (UN) opened her eyes to conflicts and these provided the impetus for many of her most recent films.
"I never thought I could make a movie or direct," she told an audience at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.
The event is screening her Cambodian genocide movie First They Killed My Father and Afghan film The Breadwinner.
Jolie said her first major movie 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 UN refugee agency.
"I wanted to learn more about the war of Yugoslavia. I had been in the region and travelling for the UN.
"It was a war I 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 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," she added.
She said First They Killed My Father was inspired by wanting to learn more about the history of Cambodia, the birthplace of her son Maddox, 16, 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.
She is forced into the countryside to toil in rice paddies and take up arms as a child soldier.
Jolie, 42, who won a Supporting Actress Oscar for psychological drama 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.
Fans can expect her to continue directing as other world issues capture her attention.
"I believe our world is stronger for diversity. And a great way to learn about each other is to work with each other."