The Breadwinner (film)

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The Breadwinner
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNora Twomey
Screenplay by
Based onThe Breadwinner
by Deborah Ellis
Produced by
CinematographySheldon Lisoy
Edited byDarragh Byrne
Music by
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 8, 2017 (2017-09-08) (TIFF)
  • November 17, 2017 (2017-11-17) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • Luxembourg
Budget$10 million[citation needed]
Box office$4,442,537[6][7]

The Breadwinner is a 2017 animated drama film from Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon directed by Nora Twomey. Based on the best-selling novel by Deborah Ellis, the film was an international co-production between Canada, the Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg, and received a limited release on 17 November 2017.[8]

The film had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival in September.[9] The Breadwinner received a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards, but lost to Coco.


Parvana is an 11-year-old girl who lives in Kabul under the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan just as the War on Terror is beginning. Her father, Nurullah, is a former school teacher who became a hawker after losing his left leg in the Soviet–Afghan War. One day, during supper, he is unjustly arrested after a volatile young Taliban thug, Idrees, thinks he insulted him earlier while the two were selling goods in the market. Because the Taliban forbids women from going out without a male relative, Parvana's family is left without the means to support themselves, as her elder brother Sulayman died years ago, leaving her, her mother Fattema, her elder sister Soraya, and her youngest infant brother Zaki. When Parvana and her mother try to go to the prison to appeal Nurullah's arrest, a thug beats Fattema and threatens to arrest them if they go outside again. Parvana comforts Zaki by telling the story of a boy on a quest to retrieve his village's seeds from the evil Elephant King.

Later, Parvana tries to buy food for her family, but the hawkers cannot sell her any due to fear of the Taliban. To support her family, she decides to cut her hair and dress as a boy, "Aatish", claiming to be Nurullah's nephew. The plot works, and Parvana is able to get both food and money. On the advice of Shauzia, another young girl disguised as a boy, Parvana tries to bribe a prison guard so she can see her father. However, the guard sends her away. She works to save up more money for a larger bribe, taking on hard labor jobs with Shauzia, who is trying to save enough money to escape her abusive father. Meanwhile, Fattema is forced to write to a relative in Mazar, arranging marriage for Soraya in exchange for shelter and protection. Parvana also meets Razaq, the former patrol partner of Idrees; the illiterate Razaq pays her to read him a letter informing him that his wife was killed by a land mine. He befriends her and continues to meet with her so that she can teach him how to read and write.

Parvana and Shauzia take a hard labor job where Idrees was also present. He recognises her, and, after being hit abruptly by Parvana with a brick, tries to kill her as she flees with Shauzia. Parvana and Shauzia manage to hide, and Idrees is abruptly called away to fight in the War in Afghanistan, as the United States is invading,never to be seen again. When Parvana returns home, Fattema pleads with her to stop the dangerous plot, telling her that her relatives accepted Soraya and that they will be collected the day after next. Parvana agrees on the condition that she gets to visit Nurullah in prison to tell him where they are going, as Razaq has a cousin who works there that will let her in. She tearfully bids farewell to Shauzia, promising that they will meet 20 years from then. However, as Parvana travels to the prison, Fattema's cousin arrives early and forces them to come with him without Parvana, as the war is starting and the roads will soon be blocked. Fattema eventually stands up to her cousin in a furious manner, refusing to let him take them further, and he leaves the family stranded on the road.

Parvana arrives at the prison, where she finds Razaq. After Parvana reveals that she is Nurullah's daughter, Razaq informs her that his cousin has left to fight, but he will retrieve Nurullah. As the prison is being cleared out of weak prisoners who are unable to fight, Parvana witnesses their execution. Terrified, she gathers her courage to stay by finishing the tale of the boy, who she turns into Sulayman, revealing that he died after picking up a "toy" on the street, which was actually a land mine that exploded. Razaq is shot on the shoulder while rescuing the weak Nurullah, but the wound was not fatal and he reunites the father and daughter. Parvana takes her father away, where they will soon reunite with the rest of the family and escape from Afghanistan together, as the two continue the story they were telling each other at the start of the film.

Voice cast[edit]

  • Saara Chaudry as Parvana / Aatish[8]
  • Soma Bhatia as Shauzia / Deliwar[8]
  • Ali Badshah as Nurullah[8]
  • Noorin Gulamgaus as Idrees and Sulayman[10]
  • Kane Mahon as Kiln Owner[11]
  • Laara Sadiq as Fattema[8]
  • Shaista Latif as Soraya[8]
  • Kanza Feris as Sorceress / Woman in Courtyard
  • Kawa Ada as Razaq[8]
  • Ali Kazmi as Darya / Fruit Juice Vendor / Jail Warden[11]
  • Mran Volkhard as Mega Phone / Market Seller[8]
  • Reza Sholeh as Stall Seller / Fruit Seller / Guard Man On Bike / Teenage Boy #2[8]


In May 2016, it was announced that key animation for the film had commenced.[8] The Breadwinner was a co-production between Aircraft Pictures in Canada, Melusine Productions in Luxembourg, and Cartoon Saloon in Ireland.

The Breadwinner was executive produced by Angelina Jolie who worked with director Nora Twomey to bring the novel to the screen. Twomey is an Irish animator, director, screenwriter, producer and voice actress. She is also a founding partner in Cartoon Saloon, an Irish animation studio based in Kilkenny that did the key animation for The Breadwinner. Twomey commented on the serious theme in her animation film, saying "I think that animation is very broad... so I don't see why it needs to be thought of as just a babysitting device... I wanted to go for the same audience that Deborah had gone for — young adults and adults as well. The film doesn't really talk down to anyone."[12]

In a 2018 interview with Twomey, she revealed that Angelina Jolie was involved in the casting of the voice actors, in particular the Canadian talent Saara Chaudry who voices Parvana, as Twomey recalls "She [Chaudry] has such empathy, intellect and emotional depth, a unique talent for an 11 year old actor." Choudry's personality also played a role in shaping Parvana's mannerisms, as Twomey explains in another interview, “Seeing what Saara was able to comprehend as an actor, as an artist, and as a child gave me an understanding of how to craft our film [in a way] that doesn't take for granted what children are afraid of or not afraid of.”[13]

Twomey also explained that Jolie's insight as UN Goodwill ambassador at Afghani girls' schools was helpful in making the film, as she reportedly offered advice on the intricacies of Afghani behavior and the cultural atmosphere of Afghanistan. Mimi Polk Gitlin, producer of the feminist classic Thelma and Louise, was also involved as an executive producer.[14][13]

Twomey also explained that she was careful to cast voice actors of Afghani heritage and to work with an Afghani dialect coach. She says, “there was so much input from people there at the time, to make sure it was not judgemental but also empathetic”. The Kabul-born dialect coach, Kawa Abu, also voices the character of Razaq. According to Twomey, the story-within-a-story about the mythical Elephant king was inspired by Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. [14] The texture and depth of the vivid fairy-tale fable and distinctive cut-out look was created using Nuke compositing software, from the Toronto-based Guru Studio.[13]

During the development of the screenplay, screenwriter Anita Doron worked together with the American-Afghan artist Aman Mojadidi, to balance an Afghani perspective with a global perspective to capture the universal tone of the film. The first draft of the screenplay also saw contributions from the Afghan Women's Organization, as various Afghani refugees from different regions and tribes offered their perspectives and deepened the film's understanding of the Afghani culture.[12]

School children along with their parents were invited for an early screening of the film, as Twomey noted that parents became emotional and teary whereas children, taking note from Parvana, were cheerful and chatty.[14]


The film's music is composed by the brothers Mychael and Jeff Danna. Its palette of timbres sways between the austere, to underscore the real life sequences, and the more colorful to illustrate the parallel fantasy story. Performers include a young girls choir whose participation was arranged through the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.[15]


Box office[edit]

The film earned $17,395 its opening weekend in North America.[7]

As of August 17, 2018, The Breadwinner has grossed $313,381 in the United States and Canada, and $2,954,368 internationally for a worldwide total of $3,266,749.[16]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95% based on 105 reviews, with an average rating of 7.90/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Breadwinner's stunning visuals are matched by a story that dares to confront sobering real-life issues with uncommon—and richly rewarding—honesty."[17] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a score of 78 out of 100 based on reviews from 20 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[18]

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, writing "...'The Breadwinner' reminds us yet again that the best of animation takes us anywhere at any time and makes us believe."[19] Mark Kermode, writing for The Guardian, gave the film 5/5 stars, writing "Along with the eerie beauty of the animation there is a salving streak of humour that softens this tale's sharper edges, reminding us that – for children – laughter and bravery walk hand in hand." The review also compares the defiant feminist spirit of The Breadwinner to that of the 2007 French-Iranian animation film Persepolis. Furthermore, the music by Mychael and Jeff Danna is described as "lyrical and expressive", for evoking elements of Eastern culture and the enchanted story world. The director, Nora Twomey, is praised as the "real heroine of the story" for her directorial debut.[20]

The New York Times selected The Breadwinner as its NYT Critic's pick and further praising Twomey for her "nuanced way with characterization and action". The voice cast, in particular Saara Chaudry who voices Parvana, was described as "terrific".[21]

Variety's Peter Debruge compares Parvana's vivid emerald eyes to those of the Afghan girl on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic, explaining that both characters' eyes challenge viewers with their defiance and how "her [Parvana's] spirit burns every bit as strongly". Though the storyline is criticized for its rushed ending, the review praises its palette and musical score, and also recognizes The Breadwinner as "nothing short of exceptional, celebrating as it does a young woman who faces adversity head-on and who relies on her own creativity, both as a storyteller and in practical situations, to adapt to whatever obstacles she faces."[22]

Vanessa H. Larson of The Washington Post gave the film three and a half out of four stars, praising the animation, for the realistic portrayal of characters as well as cultural setting of Kabul, while criticizing the story for being difficult to follow at times.[23]

The deputy country director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Abdul Rahim Ahmad Parwani, says "After the movie was over and the lights were turned back on, I saw tears in the eyes of many Afghans. I couldn't stop my own tears," as he explains that many Afghans connected strongly with The Breadwinner. Another Afghan activist, Mina Sharifi, who is the director of Sisters4Sisters - a mentorship program for Afghan girls, also expresses her appreciation for the film's eye for detail, as she says, "the clothing, the food, the family atmosphere, even the cane that the grandfather carried was carved and looked just like it was from here, I haven't seen another film on Afghanistan that takes the time to do that."[24]


The film has received ten Annie Award nominations, winning Best Independent Animated Feature and lost all nominations to Coco, making it the most nominations for an adult animated film ever at the awards.

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
Academy Awards 4 March 2018 Best Animated Feature Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo Nominated [25]
Annie Awards 3 February 2018 Best Animated Feature — Independent The Breadwinner Won [26]
Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Reza Riahi, Louise Bagnall, Alice Dieudonné Nominated
Directing in an Animated Feature Production Nora Twomey Nominated
Music in an Animated Feature Production Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna Nominated
Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Ciaran Duffy, Julien Regnard, Daby Zainab Faidhi Nominated
Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Julien Regnard Nominated
Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Saara Chaudry Nominated
Laara Sadiq Nominated
Writing in an Animated Feature Production Anita Doron Nominated
Editorial in an Animated Feature Production Darragh Byrne Nominated
Canadian Screen Awards 11 March 2018 Best Picture Andrew Rosen, Anthony Leo, Paul Young, Tomm Moore, Stéphan Roelants Nominated [27][28]
Best Adapted Screenplay Anita Doron Won
Best Editing Darragh Byrne Nominated
Best Sound Editing Nelson Ferreira, John Elliot, J. R. Fountain, Dashen Naidoo, Tyler Whitham Won
Best Original Score Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna Won
Best Original Song "The Crown Sleeps", Qais Essar and Joshua Hill Won
Cinema for Peace Awards 2018 Cinema for Peace Award for Justice Nora Twomey Won [29]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards 11 January 2018 Best Animated Feature The Breadwinner Nominated [30]
Golden Globe Awards 7 January 2018 Best Animated Feature Film The Breadwinner Nominated [31]
Golden Tomato Awards 3 January 2018 Best Animated Movie 2017 The Breadwinner 4th Place [32]
Irish Animation Awards 23 March 2019 Best Irish Feature Film or Special The Breadwinner Won [33]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association 13 January 2018 Best Animated Film The Breadwinner Won [34]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association 8 December 2017 Best Animated Feature The Breadwinner Nominated [35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ filmmusicreporter (2 June 2017). "Mychael & Jeff Danna to Score 'The Breadwinner'". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  2. ^ Wolfe, Jennifer (3 March 2015). "Cartoon Saloon, Aircraft Productions to Co-Produce 'The Breadwinner'". Animation World Network. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  3. ^ McLean, Tom (5 March 2015). "Aircraft, Cartoon Saloon Partner on 'The Breadwinner'". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  4. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (7 June 2016). "Guru Joins 'Breadwinner' Production". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  5. ^ den Hartog, Max (15 August 2015). "Angelina Jolie Joins Cartoon Saloon's 'The Breadwinner' as Executive Producer". Rotoscopers. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  6. ^ "The Breadwinner (2017)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b "The Breadwinner". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Milligan, Mercedes (19 May 2016). "International Co-Pro 'The Breadwinner' Enters Production". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  9. ^ Staff (25 July 2017). "The Toronto International Film Festival unveils first slate of films for 2017". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  10. ^ Barraclough, Leo (12 September 2016). "Oscar-Nominated Cartoon Saloon, Angelina Jolie Pitt Team With WestEnd on 'The Breadwinner'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  11. ^ a b Sarym, Ahmed (15 April 2016). "All that Ali Kazmi is up to this year!". HIP in Pakistan. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  12. ^ a b Mason, Heather (2 December 2017). "An Interview with Nora Twomey, Director of The Breadwinner — A New Film That Tells The Amazing…". Medium. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  13. ^ a b c Desowitz, Bill (14 November 2017). "'The Breadwinner': How Nora Twomey Made an Animated Oscar Contender About Female Empowerment with Help from Angelina Jolie". IndieWire. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  14. ^ a b c "7 Things We Learnt from Nora Twomey, Director of 'The Breadwinner'". Curzon Blog. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  15. ^ The Danna Brothers Win Over Audiences With “The Breadwinner” 18 December 2017,, accessed 15 March 2019
  16. ^ "The Breadwinner (2017)". The Numbers. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  17. ^ "The Breadwinner (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  18. ^ "The Breadwinner Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  19. ^ Turan, Kenneth (17 November 2017). "'The Breadwinner' is a striking and affecting animated film set in modern Kabul". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  20. ^ Kermode, Mark (27 May 2018). "The Breadwinner review – a girl's courage on the streets of Kabul". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  21. ^ Kenny, Glenn (16 November 2017). "Review: In 'The Breadwinner,' a Girl Bravely Provides for Her Family". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  22. ^ Debruge, Peter (3 November 2017). "Film Review: 'The Breadwinner'". Variety. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  23. ^ Larson, Vanessa H. (20 November 2017). "'The Breadwinner,' about a Kabul girl, features gorgeous animation but a so-so story". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  24. ^ Kumar, Ruchi (3 March 2018). "If Afghanistan Ran The Oscars, 'The Breadwinner' Would Triumph". Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  25. ^ Variety Staff (23 January 2018). "'Oscar Nominations 2018: The Complete List". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  26. ^ Hipes, Patrick (4 December 2017). "Annie Awards: Disney/Pixar's 'Coco' Tops Nominations". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  27. ^ Amidi, Amid (20 January 2018). "'The Breadwinner' Nominated For 6 Canadian Screen Awards, Including Best Picture". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  28. ^ Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television (12 March 2018). "Maudie, The Breadwinner, Hochelaga, Land of Souls, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, Kim's Convenience, Alias Grace and The Amazing Race Canada Among 2018 Canadian Screen Awards Winners". PR Newswire. Cision. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  29. ^ "Nominations 2018". Cinema for Peace Foundation. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  30. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (6 December 2017). "'Shape of Water' Leads Critics' Choice Film Nominations". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  31. ^ Variety Staff (7 January 2018). "Golden Globes Winners: Complete List". Variety. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on 8 January 2018. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  32. ^ "Best Animated Movies 2017". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. 2 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  33. ^ "2019 Winners". Irish Animation Awards. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  34. ^ "43rd Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on 4 December 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  35. ^ Gordon, Tim (7 December 2017). "The 2017 WAFCA Awards". Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Retrieved 6 December 2017.

External links[edit]