Nora Twomey Interview: ‘The Breadwinner’ director
With her film “The Breadwinner,” director Nora Twomey wants people “to see hope” in her film. Part of this she draws from the vast array of people who worked on the film, which was a co-production between Ireland and Luxembourg. In our exclusive new webchat (watch the video above), she says, “It’s an extremely hopeful thing to see so much creativity come together to create one film.” Twomey’s film and its message have definitely resonated. She earned her first Oscar nomination this year as Best Animated Feature and won the Annie Award for Best Independent Animated Feature.
The film produced by Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie centers on a young girl, Parvana, whose father is imprisoned by the Taliban. In order to provide for her mother, sister and infant brother, she dresses as a boy so that she can make money while also conforming to the Taliban’s oppressive religious laws. Twomey was introduced to the book by Deborah Ellis, originally published in 2000, and was immediately taken with the material. She read the book in a single evening and loved how it portrayed “how we normalize extraordinary circumstances in order to get on with life.”
An interesting choice she made in the process of adapting the book was that she placed the events slightly later to overlap with the American invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. She adds that this decision came about because “we were very mindful of everything that had happened in Afghanistan. We wanted to nod to it in some way and show that Afghanistan was always at the edges of empires and that there were always families at the center of this.”
Twomey also showers praise on Saara Chaudry, the 11-year-old girl who voiced Parvana. They discovered her in Toronto, where the whole film was cast. The casting director put up posters in Afghan markets and whole families would show up to audition: “There’s a wisdom and depth to her performance that’s absolutely incredible. I knew when I heard her voice that she could carry the whole film.”