15 years after making ‘Night Owls’, the Czech filmmaker Michaela Pavlatováone of the most important figures of animation cinema in his country, dares with his second feature film. ‘My Sunny Maad’ arrives in Spanish theaters after being nominated for the Golden Globe for best animated filmwon the Jury Prize at the Annecy Festival and won the César Award for best animated feature film. A committed film that explores from within the resurgence of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
‘My Sunny Maad’ adapts the novel ‘Frista’, by Petra Procházková, a Czech journalist and humanitarian worker, in which she narrates the story of a woman of Russian and Tajik origin who lived in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime. The tape changes the nationality of its protagonist, becoming Czech, as its author and as its director. However, the changes are cosmetic, since the background is similar, only causing a situation in which a western woman decides to wear a burqa for love.
The curious thing is that Pavlátová, who directs an adaptation written by Ivan Arsenyev and Yaël Giovanna Lévy, shows how, despite the multiple warning signs, the protagonist chooses to leave her life in a democratic country for one where her most basic rights are not guaranteed. The film is set in Afghanistan without the Taliban regime, but it lurks. It’s more, the feature film becomes a chronicle of how it rose again. And it’s not so strange if you see that society hasn’t really changed mentally at all, despite its fall.
And it is that this marriage shows how the husband of the protagonist, who must stop being called Helena to be Herra, is one of the most open members of his family, in which it is seen how the patriarch, the grandfather of the clan, turns out to be the most open-minded and the one that allows the women of the family to have some freedom within the house. And it is that Afghanistan is one of the worst countries to be a woman. Despite not being under the Taliban regime, you can see the seclusion of the female population from the burqa to work and educationin how men forcefully resist their wives, mothers or sisters leaving home without their supervision.
A committed film along the lines of ‘The Swallows of Kabul’ and ‘The Bread of War’
Pavlátová also reflects how this system is not direct, how its protagonist gradually enters a trap that ends up oppressing her as a human being, because the burqa or confining women so that they are not seen by visitors is similar to how a frog is cooked. If this is thrown into a pot of boiling water, it will jump… but if the water is heated little by little, the amphibian will not escape. In the same way, we end up weaving that system in which the protagonist enters.
This despite the fact the filmmaker opts for a kind portrait of that family, in which one can empathize with a good part of its characters. To this is added that she is giving strength to the women of the house, especially when the protagonist starts working for the American embassy. At that point, the film puts aside its traditional aspect to become a film of social denunciation, close to the beauty and horror of ‘Persepolis’ or ‘The Swallows of Kabul’.
The irruption of the Taliban causes the final segment to become darker, evoking ‘The bread of war’. Here you can see the hand of Arsenyev and Lévy in how to adapt the journalistic spirit of the original piece, given in how the tape shows a society that, deep down, has not wanted to change and in which its male population only moves for mere selfish interests, the result, moreover, of a dangerous ignorance.
‘My Sunny Maad’, which refers to the child adopted by Herra and her husband, Nazir, manages to be a moving story that makes the audience oblivious to the recent Afghan reality understand the sociological aspect of what is narrated, as well as serves as a complaint and demand for the protection of women’s rights. A feature film that joins those previously mentioned, which once again remind us of the importance of not forgetting what is happening in this Middle Eastern country.
The best: Its careful animation and its message about women’s rights.
Worst: It is difficult to understand the initial motives of its protagonist for agreeing to live in Afghanistan.