Political Film Review #555

THE BREADWINNER EXPOSES HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS UNDER THE TALIBAN
The United States has been at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2001. Some want American troops to pull out right away, leaving the country to its fate. The Breadwinner, directed by Nora Twomey, gives a picture of what that would mean for the Afghan people, particularly women.

However, the story is intended as a portrait of how terrifying life is like under Taliban rule without stressing a political narrative. The main focus is on Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry) and her reliance on traditional fables, so the film is presented as an animation with voiceovers.

Parvana is a 11-year-old daughter of a father Nurullah (Ali Badshah), who is arrested in Kabul for not following the norms of the Taliban, leaving the family without a male to escort a female in the family to fetch food and water. Out of necessity, Parvana then decides to pass as a boy. But she seeks to liberate her father from the prison in the belief that she can bribe officials, and her second visit to the prison provides the climax.  MH

THE DIVINE ORDER REVEALS HOW SWISS TREATED WOMEN BEFORE THEY COULD VOTE
Although not intended as a companion of The Breadwinner, the film The Divine Order provides a comparison between how women are badly treated by the Taliban today and Switzerland before 1971. Once again, a distorted interpretation of religion is the basis for mistreatment.

The Divine Order is situated in a small canton in the German Swiss Alps. A referendum on women’s suffrage is scheduled for 1971. (Afghanistan had granted women the right to vote in 1963!) Popular culture from the 1968 era of the hippies has informed many younger Swiss of the sexual revolution and women’s lib, in particular Hanna (played by Ella Rumpf), who has been confined to home because her parents do not approve of her latest boyfriend, who takes her on a motorcycle to worldly Zürich. Her aunt Nora (Marie Leuenberger), who wants relief from the humdrum stay-at-home customs for women by getting a secretarial job at a travel agency, is shocked when Hanna’s parents decide to commit her to a mental institution. Nora then meets Vroni (Sibylle Brunner), who voted in favor of the unsuccessful women’s suffrage referendum in 1959. Nora is converted to the cause while her husband Hans (Maximilian Simonischek) serves a stint of military service yet is in favor of the referendum of 1971. When Hans returns, Nora has been distributing Yes vote posters all over time, and he is dismayed because Nora’s activism submits him to public humiliation. One day Nora, Vroni, and other supporters visit a feminist in Zürich, who informs them of the possibility of female orgasm. The high point of the campaign occurs after Graziella (Marta Zoffoli), an Italian woman who has recently opened a pizzeria in town on the site that Vroni’s husband once owned, suggests a Lysistrata tactic—a strike of all the women, who hang out at the pizzeria during the week before the referendum. But Vroni dies of a heart attack when husbands break into the pizzeria to collect their wives. Soon, Nora contradicts the whitewashing sermon by the local pastor to tell the truth about Vroni’s life. The historical outcome is certain, and The Divine Order ends with a celebration not only of the victory of the referendum in 1971 but also identifies females subsequently elected to office in Switzerland.
Not mentioned is the fact that the right only extended to federal voting; cantons could restrict women’s voting in local elections until 1991, when the Swiss federal court ruled that Appenzell Innerrhoden, the last canton holdout, was required to end all voting restrictions on women. (Five years later, the Taliban banned women’s voting in Afghanistan.) Directed by Petra Biondina Volpe, The Divine Order has been nominated by the Political Film Society as best film exposé and best film on human rights of 2017. MH