The Breadwinner is an animated feature film based on the book by Deborah Ellis. The film was distributed by GKids which previously released Miss Hokusai and Bird Boy:The Forgotten Children. If GKids continues this trend, it may become the best destination for mature animated content.
Animation Studio Cartoon Saloon deviates from their previous films inspired by Irish mythology to tell the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old Afghani girl who disguises herself as boy to provide for her family after her father is arrested by the Taliban.
Though the story is culturally specific, it is an archetypal world that is more relatable than American audience members might first expect. The story is serious, but not maudlin. It is genuinely exciting to see a young girl sneak past the Taliban to provide for her loved ones.
The Breadwinner captures the hardship and also the beauty of its characters and world. When watching the film, I became those characters and felt scared for them rather than sorry for them.
The film also offers a different perspective on what it is like to live in Afghanistan. In most American media, we see war-torn areas but we are rarely given any context as to what is causing the violence. There are also poignant parallels between the Taliban and the gun-toting, misogynistic, religious extremists in the U.S.
The Breadwinner tells a story that matters while utilizing the medium of animation to its fullest. In the vein of the Arabian Nights tales, there are stories within stories. The fairytale sections of the film are stylized to look like paper cut-outs.
Seamless editing and transitions give the movie a unique flow from scene to scene. The repeating visual motif of the circle is woven brilliantly into the story and packs an emotional punch once you realize what the circle represents.
The Breadwinner shows how stories can get us through hard times and help us remember our past. Cartoon Saloon has developed a fantastic tale from difficult subject matter. The hand-drawn animation is timeless and the story is timely. There are few films that the world truly needs to see and The Breadwinner is one of them.
The Breadwinner is now streaming on Netflix.
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