Jennifer Lawrence’s film spotlights Afghan women defying Taliban
A young woman confronts a Taliban fighter, accusing him of oppressing women and closing schools and universities, in a scene from the documentary Bread and Roses. The film, produced by Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, explores the lives of three Afghan women following the Taliban‘s takeover. Lawrence highlights the importance of showcasing women fighting back, a side of the story not often seen in the news.
The documentary was created by Excellent Cadaver, a production company founded by Lawrence and her friend Justine Ciarrocchi, BBC reported. They collaborated with Sahra Mani, a documentary maker who co-founded the independent Kabul production company, Afghan Doc House. Mani had already begun a project following three women trying to establish some autonomy in the months after the Taliban takeover, as girls and women were barred from universities and schools.
Mani used covert cameras and even asked the women to film themselves at safehouses with their friends and families. One sequence captures a secret meeting in a windowless basement in Kabul, where more than a dozen women from different protest groups gather. Mani was well aware of the challenges of filming in such private and dangerous situations, but she emphasizes that these women are not victims, but heroes.
Balancing the safety of the women and telling their story was not easy, and Mani had several late-night conversations with Ciarrocchi and Lawrence during the production process. With Mani and the other women featured now out of the country, the producers felt comfortable submitting Bread and Roses for wider distribution, starting at Cannes.
Ciarrocchi and Lawrence’s next challenge is to get the film in front of a large audience, which can be difficult when the story is a snapshot of an ongoing and devastating conflict.
As women executive producers, they are still in the minority in Hollywood. A 2022 study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film showed that women comprised only 24% of directors, writers, and producers in the top-grossing films, a decrease from 2021.
Lawrence and Ciarrocchi are committed to employing women, telling women’s stories, and promoting diversity in filmmaking. They believe that diverse perspectives are what audiences want and that it is their responsibility to use their platform to give opportunities to other women.
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