Canadian co-production 'The Breadwinner' gets Golden Globe nomination

Canadian co-production 'The Breadwinner' gets Golden Globe nomination

TORONTO — Canadian author Deborah Ellis was ecstatic about Monday's Golden Globe nomination for "The Breadwinner," an animated film that's based on her children's novel, but said she won't be attending the awards show next month.

While Ellis is hopeful the nomination for best animated film will spark discussions about the story of a young girl and her family under Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in 2001, she doesn't plan to go to the Jan. 7 gala in Los Angeles due to President Donald Trump's ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of mostly Muslim nations.

"I'm not travelling to the States because of basically the Islamic travel ban," Ellis said in a phone interview after the Golden Globe nominations were announced.

"I write about refugees often in Islamic countries and it would make no sense for me to be able to go to this kind of a celebration when they can't get in."

The Trump administration has argued the travel restrictions are not anti-Muslim, but are necessary for national security.

"But that's so unimportant," Ellis said of her personal opposition to the ban. "The important part is that the film has been nominated, people are seeing it and people are going to talk about it, and that's fantastic."

Toronto actress Saara Chaudry voices the lead character, 11-year-old Parvana, who disguises herself as a boy in order to be able to go out in public alone and support her family while her father is wrongfully imprisoned by the Taliban.

"To have a movie that's specifically about women's rights and that empowers women, especially right now in Hollywood and around the world, it's really important," said Chaudry, 13.

The film is a Canadian co-production with a Toronto cast, many of whom are Muslim and have Afghan heritage. Oscar-winning actor-director Angelina Jolie is an executive producer.

"Everyone keeps saying that this is a film that's come out at the right time because of what's going on, especially in the States, the Muslim ban, and I think this is a film that can actually help shed a light on what's going on around the world that we're not normally used to — especially that's a film for kids," said Andrew Rosen, a Toronto producer on the movie.

"We've had a lot of kids watch this and ask their parents and ask at Q-and-A's, 'Is this real' or 'Did this happen 100 years ago?' And we have to say 'No, this is happening now.' I think it's really helpful when families go see it, for families to actually have this conversation with their kids."

Ellis wrote her children's novel based on the testimony of Afghan women she spoke with in refugee camps in Pakistan. She also wrote the initial draft of the screenplay for the film, while Canadian filmmaker Anita Doron wrote the final script.

"It's a film that shows the effects of war on ordinary people and we don't see that nearly enough, and I think it will help inform our decisions about whether or not we allow our governments to go to war," Ellis said from her home in Simcoe, Ont.

"Do we really want to keep doing this to other people, people who we would probably be friends with if we got to meet them in ordinary time? So I think the film is going to contribute to those kinds of discussions and that's wonderful, because the people who are seeing it now, the young people who are seeing it now, are maybe going to have that stuff imprinted in them — and when they become decision-makers, they might hesitate a little bit before killing people in other countries."

Irish animator Nora Twomey directed and acclaimed Canadian composers Jeff Danna and Mychael Danna did the score for the film, which is open in several cities in Canada and the U.S.

Rosen and his Aircraft Pictures partner Anthony Leo have been working on the project since 2009.

The other co-producing countries are Ireland and Luxembourg. Some of the post-production was done in Toronto.

Rosen said Jolie has been a big supporter of the film, helping with casting, giving guidance to Twomey and staging screenings in Los Angeles. Jolie, who has worked with Afghan refugees and schools, also attended the film's premieres in Los Angeles and Toronto.

Chaudry said she looks up to Jolie and counts her daughter, Zahara, as her "best friend." 

"The Breadwinner" is nominated against "The Boss Baby," "Ferdinand," "Coco" and "Loving Vincent."

"We never made the film to be political or religious in any way. It comes from a universal story about family," said Rosen, who plans to attend the Golden Globes show.

"It's about a girl who just wants to get her father back and the strength of that girl, so we feel we don't want to shun anyone from watching it.... Laura Bush actually watched it with some of her staff in Texas and we think that's a positive statement — to say that this is a film that can be seen in red states, blue states. This is a film that every kid 10 and up can watch with their family so they can have that discussion."

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press