Toronto teen gives voice to an­i­mated hero­ine

Chaudry read Bread­win­ner long be­fore mak­ing of film

StarMetro Toronto - - LIFE -

Four years ago, Saara Chaudry read the novel The Bread­win­ner with her mother when she was nine.

She then met the au­thor, Deb­o­rah El­lis, a Cana­dian who had spent time work­ing with and lis­ten­ing to Afghani women liv­ing in refugee camps in Pak­istan to es­cape a life un­der the op­pres­sive Tal­iban regime.

At a Q&A ses­sion with El­lis, who came to her school, Chaudry even asked if a film based on the novel, pub­lished in 2000, was in the works.

“Be­fore I knew it, I got a call from my agent say­ing that there’s an au­di­tion for The Bread­win­ner. And here I am to­day,” said the 13-year-old Toronto na­tive in an in­ter­view at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

The film tells the story of 11-year-old Par­vana (voiced by Chaudry), whose life, along with her fam­ily’s, is thrown into tur­moil when her fa­ther is im­pris­oned by the Tal­iban.

With no adult male rel­a­tive at home, nei­ther Par­vana or her older sis­ter can ven­ture out into pub­lic. It’s only by dis­guis­ing her­self as a boy that Par­vana can help pro­vide for her fam­ily and find out what hap­pened to her fa­ther.

“(Par­vana) is such a de­ter­mined, head­strong girl with so much pos­i­tiv­ity. She’s in a wartorn coun­try, her fam­ily is barely get­ting by and barely sur­viv­ing, but she ap­proaches life in such a pos­i­tive way. It’s so in­spi­ra­tional,” Chaudry said.

“To have a char­ac­ter that had those per­son­al­ity traits and val­ues, it’s def­i­nitely some­thing for me to look up to and def­i­nitely what at­tracted me to this film and this char­ac­ter, just her whole jour­ney,” she added.

Ir­ish-born di­rec­tor Nora Twomey had a sim­i­lar re­ac­tion.

“I started to read the book one evening and just couldn’t put it down. I thought about what an amaz­ing char­ac­ter there is in Par­vana and what an in­cred­i­ble story,” she said.

Twomey said she’s not at all con­cerned that the sub­ject mat­ter is too in­tense for younger au­di­ences and test screen­ings show they’re more re­silient than their par­ents or other adults might be­lieve.

“A lot of the times, the chil­dren come up chat­ting af­ter the film and the adults come out a lit­tle bit more trau­ma­tized think­ing what their chil­dren are go­ing through,” Twomey said. “(But) films like this that spark dis­cus­sions be­tween adults and chil­dren, I think, are never a bad thing and us­ing an­i­ma­tion ... is a re­spect­ful and re­spon­si­ble way to telling sto­ries like this,” she added.

AL­BeRTo e. Ro­dRIgUez/geTTy IMAgeS

aboVe: saara chaudry at­tends the bread­win­ner pre­miere at Win­ter Gar­den the­atre on sun­day. in­set: the bread­win­ner pro­ducer an­gelina Jolie, with her chil­dren shiloh JoliePitt, from left, Vivi­enne Jolie-Pitt, Knox Leon Jolie-Pitt, and Za­hara Jolie-Pitt,...

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