Toronto teen gives voice to animated heroine
Chaudry read Breadwinner long before making of film
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.
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,...