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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



Director Nora Twomey on “The Breadwinner”

A scrolling band of carnelian clouds circling clockwise, a boy in an Afghani folk costume swirling within, a radiant beam at the center: The opening frames of Nora Twomey’s animated film The Breadwinner tell a tale of light and shadow, conjuring dream imagery of the pyche’s quest towards wholeness in the larger world. In case you haven’t guessed, we’re in the realm of universal truth, seen from toon-spun Afghanistan.

The allegory quickly blossoms into a parralel narrative explaining why we first hear the din of Kabul’s main market. Set in Taliban-ruled Kabul of 2001, the “real-world” backbone of the film centers on an 11-year-old Afghani girl named Parvana who chafes under the restrictive occupation.

We soon learn that the mystical “story world” introduced at the start is of her conjuring. Rendered in cut-out animation, it follows a young hero’s quest to defy the evil Elephant King tyrannizing his village. The tale itself hails storytelling for its power to illuminate, captivate and soothe. One look at Parvana’s baby brother Zaki—whose cries subside at the sound of her words--and we understand that power.

“For me, Parvana's voice is the light,” Twomey tells me during her recent travels in New York. Just as her heroine beams her enchantments, so too Twomey’s solo directorial debut seeks to elucidate and transform its rapt audience.

Four years in the making, the Irish, Canadian and Luxembourgian co-production was an all-out cultural immersion for the Cork-born filmmaker and her team. “We talked a lot with our Afghan consultants about the things that set Afghans apart and the things that are universal,” she says.  

Things like the collectivist values of traditional Afghani society, for starters. “In Afghanistan the needs of the family unit are more important than the needs of the individual,” Twomey explains. “We wanted to represent the sense of loyality to the family while also taking on board the structure of the family across age and gender.” Continue reading here:


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