The Swallows Of Kabul

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Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

The Swallows Of Kabul
"Visually arresting and emotionally engaging." | Photo: © Les Armateurs - Mélusine Productions - Close Up Films - ARTE France Cinéma - R

It is a highly original notion to make an animated film about a tough story of Taliban oppression, in human values and creative freedoms. Perhaps against the odds, it works, with the water-colour palette of co-drector Eéa Gobbé-Mévellec providing a counterpoint to the harshness of the universe around.

This is the first time that renowned French theatre and film director (and actress) Zabou Breitman has attempted to work in animation, teaming up with talented artist Gobbé-Mévellec.

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Originally, the idea was to make the story as piece of live action but it became clear that the difficulties of such a project would get in the way. Animation clearly allows the makers a greater of freedom and expression and could also make the narrative more palatable to viewers, leaving plenty of room for imaginations to take flight.

The narrative examines the lives of Mosheen and his beautiful wife, Zunaira, which are destroyed as the Taliban takes over. Mosheen's dream of becoming a diplomat has been shattered and Zunaira can no longer even appear on the streets of Kabul unveiled.

Atiq is a jailer who guards those who have been condemned to death; the darkness of prison and the wretchedness of his job have seeped into his soul.

Atiq's wife, Musarrat, is suffering from an illness no doctor can cure. The destinies are about to become inexplicably intertwined, through death and imprisonment to passion and extraordinary self-sacrifice.

The film was shot with the voice actors dressed in costume and in the studio - including Hiam Abbass, Zita Hanrot, Swann Arlaud, and Simon Abkarian. Breitman suggests that the process helped to give a sense of hyper-realism.

Whatever the means, it is both visually arresting and emotionally engaging.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2019
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The Swallows Of Kabul packshot
Summer 1998 - Kabul under Taliban rule. Zunaira and Mohsen are young and in love. Despite the daily violence and misery, they hope for a better future. One day, a foolish gesture causes life to take an irrevocable turn.

Director: Zabou Breitman, Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec

Writer: Zabou Breitman, based on the book by Yasmina Khadra

Starring: Hiam Abbass, Zita Hanrot, Swann Arlaud, Simon Abkarian

Year: 2019

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: France

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