"The swallows of Kabul", a moving screening at the French Cinema Week Festival
Film Screening « The Swallows of Kabul » by Zabou Breitman and Éléa Gobbé-Mévellec
Introductory remarks by Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
French Cinema Week - 14 November 2019
Madame la Consule Générale, dear Anne-Claire
Mr. Antoine Arnault,
Ms. Zabou Breitman,
Excellency Permanent representative of Afghanistan Adela Raz,
UN Women Executive Coordinator Purna Sen,
French Cinema Week organizers, Madame Marie-France Brière, Dominique Besnehard, Laurence Teinturier and Marie-José Hunter,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s really an immense honor for me to be here with you tonight for the screening of the movie “The swallows of Kabul”. I would like to express special thanks to director Zabou Breitman, whose talent commands really our admiration, and to Laurence and Marie-José Teinturier, organizers of this new francophone film festival. I would like also to join my thanks to the the sponsors of this event, and in particular Mr. Antoine Arnault, from LVMH, without whom tonight’s screening could not have taken place.
We are here for the first ever French Cinema Week, and I think we could not pay a better tribute to French cinema and French filmmakers than by watching this powerful movie from Zabou Breitman, which you will see, is a chef-d’oeuvre of poetic sensitivity and a message of hope in face of unspeakable human cruelty and suffering.
With around I think 100,000 people speaking French living in New York, we are also paying tribute to the French language, and to renowned French speaking writers and French filmmakers whose contribution to social change and to gender equality is crucial. As you may know, this movie is based on the tragically beautiful novel the swallows of Kabul by the famous Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra.
Movies and literature I am fully convinced, can change minds. Movies and literature can change lives. I believe in the power of words and in the power of art. They can move us and they can make us move and transform ourselves and our world. They are a crucial shield against obscurantism, a protection against the regression that is threatening our societies on issues such as women’s rights or promoting non violence.
In 2019, we are still witnessing widespread violence against women and girls across the world. Women and girls continue to be the primary victims of discrimination, and to be on the weaker end of the power structure. In Afghanistan, women continue to pay the highest price of the systemic violence and are subjected to the worst forms of violence, particularly in Taliban-controlled areas. Women would be better protected if they could fully and meaningfully participate in political processes and if they had the same economic and social rights and opportunities as men. This is what Zunaira tells us throughout the film. And this is what we should tirelessly fight for.
So tonight, we are also paying tribute to those women, women who everyday face violence and still stand up for their rights. Women who are victims but decide to be the masters of their destiny, everyday heroes.
For these reasons, your work, Madam Breitman, is particularly enlightening. Your talent and your commitment are truly inspiring. The outstanding animated film we are about to watch puts women’s voices first. It is not only great art; it is also a testimony of the importance to fight for gender equality and for women’s rights.
Let me add that “The Swallows of Kabul” could not come at a better time, as we will mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, a cause that France has been spearheading at the United Nations for many years. Together with the Netherlands, in the wake of the Me Too movement, exactly one year ago, we pioneered the first ever resolution of the United Nations General Assembly to eliminate sexual harassment.
The Swallows of Kabul is an outstanding and deeply moving film that has a profound resonance with the United Nations’ mission to fight for gender equality and women’s rights.
The UN has a decisive role to play in fighting violence against women, especially in situations of conflict. It is true in Afghanistan as it is true in Iraq, Syria, Central African republic, South Sudan, Mali or the DRC. It is crucial that we work relentlessly to fight against violence and to address its underlying causes, in particular gender inequalities and stereotypes.
France is a strong partner in this fight, and that is why France, in partnership with Mexico and UN Women, will host in July 2020 the Generation Equality Forum, commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, which will bring together States, regional organizations and civil-society actors.
So on behalf of France, I would like to issue a renewed call that we will continue fighting together to eliminate all forms of violence against women, and to that end, that we will continue the fight for women’s rights, which implies fighting for women’s empowerment. Cinema, literature and art are weapons of this fight. But, as you will see tonight, their strength comes from their power to remind ourselves that real strength comes from love, which makes us truly, humbly, and all equally human.
Thank you all and please enjoy the film!