The Making of 'The Swallows of Kabul'
The story of a modern, underrated treasure from Europe.
Welcome back! In this Thursday edition of Animation Obsessive, we’re looking at The Swallows of Kabul — a remarkable animated feature from 2019.
We often make the point that, right now, a lot of the world’s most exciting animation comes from Europe. Maybe not box-office hits, but top-of-the-line stuff that wouldn’t be produced elsewhere. See films like The Summit of the Gods, I Lost My Body, Little Vampire, Wolfwalkers and Flee — just from the past few years.
This work tackles truly different subject matter. Where else would you find a tense, adult thriller about animated mountain climbers? A gritty drama about a severed hand? The range of stories and styles is broad, and the level of animation often ranks with the greats.
The Swallows of Kabul is in this lineage. It’s a film for adults, about a few lives entangled in Afghanistan during the ‘90s. It has a lush watercolor look, and it portrays the gestures and mannerisms of its cast with startling realism. While it hasn’t been released in many countries, we recently had the chance to see it and came away both moved and wowed.
It’s the kind of film that only Europe’s co-production system could make. And yet, even there, The Swallows of Kabul was a struggle — as we discover today.
Here we go!