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Afghanistan Peace Longing: “The Breadwinner” and “The Beauty Academy of Kabul”

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Cartoon Saloon’s enchanting 2017 hand-drawn animation, “The Breadwinner” begins in Taliban-controlled Kabul in 2001, where 11-year-old Parvana is at the market helping her father, Nurullah. That night, the family is enjoying their simple dinner together when Taliban soldiers come in and take Nurullah away. The next day, Parvana and her mother, Fattema, go to appeal Nurullah’s wrongful arrest. On the way, Fattema is brutally beaten and warned not to come out again without a male relative. Back home, the family is running low on provisions, and Parvana decides to take matters into her own hands. Parvana takes on a male identity as Aatish. By selling homemade items and offering to read and write in exchange for money, she successfully brings food home. “The Breadwinner” won 22 awards and received much recognition, including an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards.

“The Beauty Academy of Kabul” is a creative documentary directed by Liz Mermin. The film introduces a group of outspoken hairdressers from the United States who came to Afghanistan to open the country’s first beauty school in the 21st century. The story follows 20 Afghan women and their teachers through a three-month curriculum on the latest fashion techniques in hair cutting, coloring, and perming. “The Taliban persecuted them. They had to work in secret.” Within the training period, the teachers and students share their experiences and beliefs. It quickly becomes apparent that the teachers all hold a sincere desire to brighten the lives of others. As for the students, they are very diligent. Upon release in 2004, “The Beauty Academy of Kabul” received many encouraging reviews from top USA newspapers and magazines. The humor and humility of the women, as well as their loving interactions, are both touching and empowering. Through “The Beauty Academy of Kabul,” audiences become acquainted with the profound courage and resilience of the wonderful women of Afghanistan.

“The Breadwinner” and “The Beauty Academy of Kabul” are two awakening films that not only remind us of the immense suffering that comes with war and oppression, but also highlight the courage, tenderness, and hope of the Afghan people.

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