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Graphically rich, 2D watercolour-style animation The Swallows of Kabul (Les hirondelles de Kaboul) from French helmers Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec, is one of several films selected from the touring French Film festival for a Gisborne programme.

The programme has been curated to profile films that tell rich stories, amplify new perspectives and entirely encapsulate the joie de vivre that can only be experienced from watching French cinema on le grand écran (the big screen), says organiser Wendy Kirkwood.

“Stalwarts of the French screen like Catherine Deneuve, Alain Delon, Juliette Binoche, Francois Civil and Camille Cottin will partner with newer faces to excite and entertain you. With 30 films to choose from including comedies, thrillers, dramas, classics and films for kids — there will be something for every cinéphile.”

Based on the Yasmina Khadra bestseller, The Swallows of Kabul is set in the summer of 1998; Kabul is in ruins and occupied by the Taliban.

Historian Mohsen (voiced by Swann Arlaud) and artist Zunaira (Zita Hanrot) are still young and in love. They remain hopeful that they will once again be able to live as they choose in their beloved country.

In contrast, the despair-filled prison warden Atiq (Simon Abkarian) and his terminally-ill wife Mussarat (Hiam Abbass) live as if they are already dead.

Stoic war vet Atiq has seen too much horror in his life and is unable to express to his wife how much she means to him.

She, meanwhile, suffers because she can't fulfill her wifely functions of shopping, cleaning, and cooking, and because she never bore him a child. It's the characterisation of Mussarat that winds up being the most slighted from the condensing of the novel. After a screening at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, OneOfUs.net called it a “great piece of animation and a very interesting character study that constantly keeps you emotionally invested and guessing as to what is going to happen next”.

For a full programme of French film festival screenings at the Odeon Multiplex from March 13, visit https://tinyurl.com/ud45xqg

The Swallows of Kabul is one of several films selected from the touring French Film festival for a Gisborne programme.