Dressed head-to-toe in flowing white, Angelina Jolie landed in Toronto Sunday for the warmly received world premiere of Nora Twomey’s animated “The Breadwinner,” which Jolie exec-produced, about a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to support her family in Taliban-controlled Kabul.
Like everyone in the theater, Jolie was visibly moved when the first post-screening question came from a young Canadian-Afghani woman who has been through a similar experience. When another young girl asked Jolie what people can do to help, she answered: “First of all, be brave, and stand up, and ask questions.”
That evening a relaxed Jolie joined Toronto festival artistic director Cameron Bailey for an intimate on-stage conversation about her career evolution, “Breadwinner,” and Netflix-bound “First They Killed My Father,” which screens Monday night. “Father” producer (with Jolie) Rithy Panh, the Cambodian director of Un Certain Regard prize-winner “The Missing Picture,” also participated in the chat.
“I’ve been to Afghanistan many times. The Afghan people are extraordinary, and the story of this film tells you a lot about them,” said Jolie of “Breadwinner,” which is based on a book by Canadian peace-activist Deborah Ellis.
“The sad reality of girls not being able to go to school is a reality in many countries around the world,” she added.
“Father,” which has opened theatrically in Cambodia, is based on the memoir by human rights activist Loung Ung, who tells her story of survival living under the Khmer Rouge regime from a child’s point of view.
“Every day on set, our discussions were not just about shots, but about what the film means,” said Jolie, who made the film primarily for Cambodian audiences, and first screened it there months ago at the Olympic Stadium, where many atrocities had occurred in the late 1970s.
“There were survivors there, ex-Khmer Rouge, members of the royal family — we weren’t sure what the reaction would be, but it was such a moving experience,” said Jolie, adding that she also made the film for her son, Maddox, who was born in Cambodia, to support his understanding of what his birth parents went through.
Jolie said these days she prefers working behind the lens. “I believe our world is stronger for diversity,” she said. “And great way to learn about each other is to work with each other.”