THE BREADWINNER was nominated Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars and rightfully so. It is a rich and vibrant film that takes place in a land that isn’t well represented on the screen. It shows the power of spirit and how wrong it is to keep anyone down specifically in regards to gender here.
The story takes place in 2001 in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Taliban is in control and has strict guidelines against women in the country. They can’t go out in public without being properly covered. If they go anywhere, they have to be chaperoned by a male. Here we meet Parvana (Saara Chaudry) who is helping her father Nurallah (Ali Badshah) in the market selling goods. Nurallah has lost one of his legs to the war. But that does not stop him from having a good attitude. He was a former teacher and tells his daughter stories of the creation of the country and the many rulers that came through there. This helps sparks her imagination. He also has taught her how to read and write. One day in the market, he runs afoul of a young Taliban fighter named Idrees (Noorin Gulamgaus). Idrees does not like that Parvana is outside and not covered as much as she should. There is an ugly exchange and it doesn’t bode well for their family.
Parvana’s family also includes her mother Fattema (Laara Sadiq), her older sister Soraya (Shaista Latif) and younger brother Zaki. Parvana used to have an older brother, but he died. Through Parvana’s imagination, she thrills her brother with tales of an evil Elephant King and how a boy went out to get the stolen seeds from him. Tragedy though strikes and the Taliban takes Nurallah away to prison basically for his hostile confrontation with Idrees. This is a big blow to the family with the way the society is toward women. They basically have no rights and can’t work. Fattema tries to visit her husband in prison, but is beaten up by one of the guards.
Director Nora Twomey toggles between two worlds. There is the real world of Kabul. It is represented by the drab dusty streets and the active marketplace. The colors are quite muted with a lot of brown. There is though so much detail shown on screen with chickens hanging in the butcher shops and various other places selling their wares. But it is closed off to women. Then there is the story world that Parvana makes up for her little brother. Now here is where the vibrant colors come out. There is the bright red and blue and everything in between. You always know which land you are in when you see the color schemes. In this land anything is possible. Parvana uses this story to come to grips with her brother’s death. You see this as the story slowly gets told.
Parvana takes the drastic step to cut her hair and go out as a boy. She does this to make money, get food and generally not get harassed. She meets Shauzia (Soma Bhatia), who is also dressing as a boy. Shauzia is determined to make enough money to get away from her abusive father and leave Kabul. She has seen a postcard with bright blue water that acts as a goal for her. These two have some adventures and get various back breaking work. Meanwhile Fattema is writing to get her older daughter married, so they get taken away from this place. Parvana though is determined to get her father out of prison no matter the cost.
THE BREADWINNER never is boring and keeps you interested in these people. It takes you to another country where the laws were quite different. You do appreciate what we have here in the United States and the rights that women have. This is a great story about hope, spirit and family. Great care has been made with the animation. THE BREADWINNER is not to be missed.
Video: The film looks so beautiful and has great contrast from the real world scenes and the story world scenes.
Audio: The sound was okay. I did have to put on the closed captioning to hear all the dialogue.
There is an introduction that you can play before the film by Director Nora Twomey and Executive Producer Angelina Jolie. It’s less than a minute long.
Feature Commentary with the Filmmakers: There are several of them on the commentary including the director and art director. They discuss the origin of the movie, art direction, animation, transitions, composition and the story.
The Making of The Breadwinner:
Behind the Scenes with the Cast (9:36): The filmmakers and the cast are on this feature. The story is discussed and the actors go over their characters and how they related to them.
Animating the Film (6:16): Storyboards and panels are gone over. The director acted out the scenes, so the animators knew what she was going for.
Creating the Music and Sound (4:48): The sound professionals detailed how each world got its own set of music and sound.
Telling the Story (7:49): The filmmakers and actors discuss the story and how they were drawn to it.