The Breadwinner

In 2001, Afghanistan is under the control of the Taliban. When her father is captured, a determined young girl disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family.

The latest Oscar nominated feature from the Irish studio (Cartoon Saloon) behind ‘Song of the Sea’ and ‘The Secret of Kells’ is ‘The Breadwinner‘, a film that veers away from the fairytale aspects of those prior films to focus squarely on human drama. Set in Afghanistan in 2001, this is a rare example of an animated film that deals almost explicitly with adult issues, through the story of a young girl growing up in the country as the Taliban come to power. It’s reminiscent of the Studio Ghibli masterpiece ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ in many ways as it deals with grown up themes through the eyes of a child and the lens of animation and like that film, it shows that animation can be every bit as powerful a storytelling device for adults as it is for children.

The film is centered on Parvana (Saara Chaudry), a young, intelligent girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family (hence the film’s title) after her father is unfairly imprisoned by the Taliban. Through this premise, the film lays bare the desperate circumstances Parvana and her family find themselves in to earn money and put food on the table, with the Taliban forbidding females to go out without a male relative. Despite this predicament the film is actually fairly empowering, with the tough and willing Parvana taking responsibility for her family and fighting back against the Taliban rule in small, but vital ways. The primary narrative is bolstered by a fable more akin to the stories told in Cartoon Saloon’s previous films, which is fun but doesn’t dovetail as neatly with the core story as the filmmakers intended.

The Breadwinner’ is a superbly crafted animation that contrasts its impressive visual style with a harsh story about living under Taliban rule and I found it to be entertaining and moving in equal measure.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Nora Twomey

Starring: Saara Chaudry, Soma Bhatia, Noorin Gulamgaus, Kane Mahon, Laara Sadiq, Ali Badshah and Shaista Latif

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