From writer Anita Doron and director Nora Twomey, The Breadwinner is a stunning portrait of a child’s plight in early-2000s Afghanistan. Based on the novel by Deborah Ellis, superb animation and endearing dialogue set apart this heartbreaking piece of modern historical fiction. (GEP: 4.5/5)
Review by Social Media Manager Georgiana E. Presecky
Parvana’s life as a preteen in Afghanistan is already incredibly difficult – her family struggles to keep from starving, but they are bolstered by each other’s company. When her father is abruptly arrested by the Taliban for owning books and teaching women to read, her mother and sister look to Parvana for a solution. Local markets are forbidden from selling their goods to women, forcing her to cut off her hair and dress like her late brother to buy food for her family.
The Breadwinner is a special film, from its narrative structure to the meaningful story at its center. It has echoes of Mulan – a smart, ambitious heroine who wants to do more for her family, who is held back by her gender and poses as a male because it’s almost impossible to thrive otherwise. Parvana puts her life in danger to earn money and buy food for her family, but she also keeps them afloat with her inspiring spirit. She tells stories to soothe her infant brother, just as her father told stories to her. “Stories remain in our hearts,” he tells her in an early scene, and that theme remains prevalent throughout these well-rounded 90 minutes.
Doron and Twomey expertly balance the harsh realities faced by children in war-torn nations with the hopeful and heartwarming bond between family members. Their blatant portrayal of Taliban oppression is clear and well-explained for children who might not understand – or adults who are already all too aware, but wish they could change things. Girls, in particular, face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and must live by arbitrary rules that make equality seem only like a distant dream in so many cultures. The dangers Parvana faces are never sugarcoated, but aren’t gratuitously violent or unsettling either. They’re just real, which make this film even more memorable.
The Breadwinner is a beautiful balancing act between the personal and the painfully real. It dares to remain hopeful despite Parvana’s bleak circumstances. It is as moving as it is educational – a work of modern historical fiction with words as simplistically beautiful as its animation.
© Georgiana E. Presecky (11/20/17) FF2 Media
Top Photo: Parvana is the heroine at the center of The Breadwinner.
Middle Photo: Parvana is voiced by Saara Chaudry.
Bottom Photo: Parvana and her friend both disguise themselves as boys to provide for their families.
Photo Credits: Aircraft Pictures
Q: Does The Breadwinner pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
Yes! Parvana talks to her mother, sister and friend who all face the same struggle as females.