Pixar’s “Coco” is likely going to be the big winner at the box office this weekend but it isn’t the only animated film on offer. “The Breadwinner” is also an animated movie with young characters but they are very different movies.
Set in Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul in 2001 “The Breadwinner’s” story focuses on 11-year-old Parvana (voice of Saara Chaudry). When we first meet her she spends much of her time at the local market with her former school teacher father Nurullah (Ali Badshah) who now makes ends meet by selling goods and writing letters for people who can’t read or write. When he is thrown in prison for questioning the Taliban’s absolute rule Parvana must disguise herself as a boy—cutting her hair short and wearing her late brother’s clothes—to be allowed in public and help her family survive.
As you can guess, although based on a children’s book, this isn’t geared toward kids. Although animated it doesn’t cut corners in the presentation of Parvana’s shattering circumstances. The brutal reality of her life under the Taliban is painted in vivid tones but coloured with hope. As she battles against misogyny and oppression the power of storytelling, in the form of an improvised tale of the Elephant King, provides a safe haven.
By the end credits, though, it is Parvana’s determination and hero’s journey that are the film’s strongest points. Rejecting the chauvinism of her culture she uses her wits to find a path forward in life. Beautifully animated, it’s intense, inspiring and further proof that good storytelling is good storytelling regardless of milieu.