Adaptation’s awards buzz ‘phenomenal,’ author says
Canadian author Deborah Ellis is thrilled the big-screen adaptation of her young adult novel The Breadwinner is getting major awards buzz. But she’s quick to divert credit to the film’s director and creative team.
Director Nora Twomey and her team of animators “deserve all the praise that they’re getting” for the film’s success, Ellis said from her home in Simcoe, Ont.
“They were very sincere about the project ... and they have been very careful to be as authentic in the film as they possibly can,” Ellis said.
“It’s just really a phenomenal piece of work that they’ve created.”
The Breadwinner tells the story of Parvana, an 11-yearold Afghan girl living under Taliban rule. She dresses up as a boy to help provide for her family while her father is imprisoned by the Taliban.
The movie, a Canada-Ireland-Luxembourg co-production, premièred at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and counts Angelina Jolie among its executive producers.
Earlier this week it was nominated for 10 Annie Awards, which celebrate animated work, including best independent animated feature. The Breadwinner trails only Pixar’s Coco, which has 13 nominations.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association picked The Breadwinner over Coco for its best animation award. The Breadwinner is also one of 26 movies submitted for consideration in the animated feature film category for the 90th Academy Awards.
Ellis said she was “pretty excited, of course” when the movie rights for her story were sold but “it was hard to know for sure. Sometimes these things start and then they can’t get off the ground.”
“But these folks were very tenacious,” she added.
Ellis first saw the completed movie in August at a screening for the cast and crew, an experience she said was “fantastic.”
She remembers being struck by the number of people in the room who had all contributed to putting the story she wrote onto the big screen.
“One of the things that was most moving was to look up at the seats in the theatre and know that they were all filled with people who had been part of this project and contributed their time and thought and heart and soul,” she said. “That really blew me away.”
As a writer for young audiences, Ellis said she’s used to seeing readers interact with her work directly, an experience many writers don’t share.
“I go into a lot of schools,” she said. “My books have always felt like they were community kind of events, because I’m in there and the kids are talking about them.
“What’s changed, I think, is now it’s more of a wider audience, and a different audience. Parents will take their kids to see the movie, and talk about it afterwards. It just adds a whole other layer of discussion.”
Ellis thinks the story might resonate more now than when her book was released because conditions in Afghanistan have become more widely understood.