A review of the new animated movie “The Breadwinner”

We are living in a golden age of animation and Oscar-nominated “The Breadwinner” is a wonderful addition to the genre. An Irish-Canadian-Luxembourg co-production, the source material is a young adult novel by Canadian writer Deborah Ellis and both production house (Cartoon Saloon) and director (Nora Twomey) are from the Emerald Isle.

Set in the Afghan capital of Kabul in 2001 during the time of Taliban control, the eponymous central character is 11 year old Parvana (voiced by Canadian schoolgirl Saara Chaudry) who, when her father is arrested, is forced to assume the identity of a boy in order to feed her family.

Inside this contemporary and moving story is a traditional and heroic fable and the two tales are told using different styles of animation – the first more naturalistic but still stylised (long faces and large eyes) and the second simpler and more theatrical. When you add to all these ingredients, the evocative eastern-style music, you have a a truly magical experience.

For me, there were echoes of other works: “The Kite Runner” in terms of Kabul locale and young characters, “Persepolis” in terms of the animation and religious extremism, and “He Named Me Malala” in terms of history told through animation and a young girl inspired by her schoolteacher father. But “The Breadwinner” stands on its own as a unique and splendid achievement.

Sadly you will have to seek out the film – this is no blockbuster – but you’ll be delighted that you did.


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