Author to hold Q&A session on Sunday

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

Celebrated Canadian author and peace activist Deborah Ellis will speak at the main branch of the Brantford Public Library on Saturday, May 26. (JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer)

Celebrated Canadian author and peace activist Deborah Ellis will speak at the main branch of the Brantford Public Library on Saturday, May 26. (JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer)


Each month The Strand Theatre in Simcoe shows movies that have been part of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), but never before have they had a strong local connection.

That is, until Sunday.

At 4 p.m. the theatre will air The Breadwinner, a 94-minute animated film based on the novel written by Simcoe author Deborah Ellis. Originally published in 2000, the book focuses on a young girl in Afghanistan who is forced to disguise herself as a boy in order to work and provide for her family.

In 2015, Jolie Pas – a production company owned by Angelina Jolie – purchased the rights to the film, which debuted at TIFF last year and just last month received an Academy Award nomination.

“Mostly I'm looking forward to my dad (Keith) seeing it, and my sister (Carolyn Brown) who has moved to town now,” Ellis said. “For me, that's the big deal.”

Since being released, the book has been published in 25 languages and earned more than $1 million in royalties for both Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kids International.

“Unfortunately it's still a very timely story, I wish that it wasn't, but we're still looking at a world where there are large portions of it where women don't have even basic human rights for a variety of reasons,” Ellis explained.

“I think what draws people to the story is the sense of courage people bring to horrific situations and it gives us hope.”

The movie will be shown six times through Feb. 19, and keeping with the theme of the book, Strand owners Kent and Cindy Rapley will donate 50 cents from each ticket sold to a charity of Ellis' choosing.

“This is a nice way to piggyback on what Deb has already done to help places that aren't as fortunate as we are,” said Jim Carroll, spokesperson for the theatre. “The whole story is about empowerment of children, of women, of girls.”

Ellis was pleased by news of the charitable donation.

“What an incredibly generous gesture,” she added. “It can't be the easiest thing to run a business like this in a small town and for them to make that gesture just really shows the character of the people that run this place.”

Area residents don't need to have read the book to enjoy the film, Ellis added.

“It's beautifully done,” she began. “Even if they don't know the story, don't know about Afghanistan, don't care about Afghanistan, it's such a beautiful film and I think people will come away from it being in awe of the landscapes of Afghanistan and the incredible kindness of the people who live there.”

Ellis has travelled around the world to find inspiration for her books, and she often speaks publicly about the injustices facing children in impoverished nations. Bringing the movie to Simcoe, said Carroll, helps create further awareness.

“Movies open up doors to a lot of people that wouldn't necessarily pick up a book,” he said. “A visual medium, I think, is a great way to get the message across - not everybody is a reader. It's just neat that 18 years later (the book) has a life again.”

Showtime for Feb. 11 and 18 is 4 p.m.; Feb. 12 and 19 is 6 p.m.; Feb. 13 and 15 at 3 p.m. Ticket prices are set at $10 for adults and $8 for children. For more information go to or call 519-426-2736.