Although ostensibly a children’s animation, just as its source material was a children’s novel, The Breadwinner confronts the brutal reality of living in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as a female – especially with no male relations around to act as “chaperone”. After her teacher father’s arrest, Parvana’s solution is a very simple one – the most obvious, if dangerous, decision: disguise herself as a boy.
A potted history of Afghanistan provides a great introduction to The Breadwinner, touching on its turbulent past and deftly explaining its circumstances as portrayed in the film, with no patronising glossing-over of the harsh realities of living under the Taliban’s rule.
The Breadwinner is an appealingly simple but stylised animation, but the sections set in Storyworld, where Parvana routinely escapes with her father, little brother or friend, are simply stunning. These rich illustrations stemming from Parvana’s narrative are inspired by puppetry, stop motion and the region’s rich heritage of art. There’s also room for gentle humour as these characters adapt to Parvana and her sometimes co-narrator’s disagreements over storylines.
With evocative music from Mychael Danna (Little Miss Sunshine, Life of Pi) and his brother Jeff, who have recently begun to collaborate, The Breadwinner details frankly the huge shift in Parvana’s public treatment once she dons her male disguise, as well as the daily dangers of such a risky strategy. Although the novel’s plot has been simplified and condensed, there is still plenty of action unfolding onscreen, courtesy of a strong, sympathetic protagonist.
The Breadwinner builds on an ever-growing trend of tackling the toughest of world issues in children’s animations without either deliberately trying to shock or sugarcoat. The combination of such a powerful storyline, inspirational heroine and gorgeous art style will surely see an acknowledgement from the Academy and audiences.
CAST: Saara Chaudry, Laara Sadiq, Shaista Latif, Ali Badshah, Noorin Gulamgaus
DIRECTOR: Nora Twomey
WRITERS: Anita Doron, Deborah Ellis
SYNOPSIS: A headstrong young girl in Afghanistan disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her poor family after her father is arrested on trumped-up charges.