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Western Animation / The Swallows of Kabul

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The Swallows of Kabul (French: Les Hirondelles de Kaboul) is a 2019 French animated film directed by Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobé Mévellec. It is an adaption of the novel of the same name by Yasmina Khadra.

As the title suggests the story is set in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, which is controlled by the Taliban. The main characters are two couples:

  • Atiq wards a jail for women. His wife Mussarat is dying from cancer.
  • Mohsen and Zunaira have met as students and are educated. Zunaira is very angry as everything is forbidden in the Taliban regime.

Early in the film, Atiq leads a woman from his jail to a lapidation place. Mohsen is present and throws a stone at her. He then feels guilty about that. Later he accidently dies while fighting with his angry wife, who is condemned to death and jailed under Atiq's guard.

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Atiq, who already seemed to doubt, starts questioning the Taliban and their justice.


The Swallows of Kabul contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Bittersweet Ending: Mussarat and Atiq are both executed after the former switches places with Zunaira, allowing her to escape and get a second chance at life.
  • Crapsack World: See Double Standard for a start. In general people can do almost nothing, and public executions (preferably on women) seem to be the main distraction.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Although he already had doubts about the Taliban government, Zunaira's incarceration and death penalty makes him grow more sympathetic towards his prisoners, to the point that he cries for the first time in years and allows her to escape.
  • Double Standard: Women can't go out of their house without a full-body veil. In fact they don't seem to have any rights, and justice is super harsh to them. It is suggested that men can repudiate their wife quite easily, but the other way around isn't possible.
    • On screen whenever in the street women all look the same and are mostly silent. Men on the other hand have diverse designs.
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  • Full-Body Disguise: When she borrows her neighbor's full-body veil, Zunaira is mistaken for her. Later Mussarat and her switch their veils, and Mussarat is executed in her stead.
  • Kangaroo Court: We don't get to see Zunaira's trial, but one may guess it was quite expeditive. As Atiq investigates, it becomes apparent that Mohsen's death was an accident, but that no Taliban cares about that. A guilty woman is needed for the public executions that are supposed to provide entertainment before a football match.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: After killing Atiq and Mussarat, the guards realize Zunaira is most likely among the crowd witnessing the executions... a crowd of women all wearing very similar burkas.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Mussarat and Atiq are executed for letting Zunaira escape.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Atiq begins this way, warding a jail for women and generally being indifferent towards them, that is, until Zunaira is jailed.
  • Sadist Show: Death penalty in Kabul is performed in a football stadium before a match.

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