The Breadwinner (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Nora Twomey|
|Based on||The Breadwinner|
by Deborah Ellis
|Edited by||Darragh Byrne|
The Breadwinner is a 2017 animated drama film by Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon directed by Nora Twomey and executive produced by Mimi Polk Gitlin and Angelina Jolie. Based on the best-selling novel by Deborah Ellis, the film was an international co-production between Canada, Ireland, and Luxembourg, and received a limited release on 17 November 2017. The film is currently streaming on Netflix.
Parvana is an 11-year-old girl living in Kabul, Afghanistan, under the control of the Taliban. Her father Nurullah, who is a school teacher was left physically impaired during the Soviet–Afghan War; because of the war, he lost his left leg and became a hawker. A while later, during supper, he is unjustly arrested after a volatile young member of the Taliban, Idrees, thinks he insulted him earlier while the two were selling goods in the market in Kabul. Parvana's family is left without an adult male relative, as her elder brother Sulayman died years ago, leaving her, her mother Fattema, her elder sister Soraya and her youngest brother Zaki without means to support the family, as they are not allowed to go out without a male relative. Even though Parvana and her mother try to go to the prison, they are forced to go back when a member of the Taliban beats Fattema and threatens to arrest them if they are caught again. After Parvana unsuccessfully tries to buy food while going out as a girl, she decides to cut her hair and dress as a boy and pretend to be Nurullah's nephew, Aatish, in order to support the family. Parvana frequently entertains Zaki by telling the story of a young boy on a journey to retrieve the seeds stolen by the evil Elephant King.
The ploy works, and Parvana is able to get both food and money. On the advice of Shauzia, another young girl dressing as a boy to support her family, Parvana goes to the prison where her father is held to try to bribe the guards into letting her see him. The plan fails each time, and Parvana is driven away. She works to save up more money to get a larger bribe, taking on hard labor jobs with Shauzia, who is trying to save enough money to escape from her abusive father. Meanwhile, Fattema is forced to write to a relative in Mazar-i-Sharif, offering Soraya up for an arranged marriage with one of her younger cousins in exchange for shelter and protection. Parvana also meets Razaq, who was with Idrees when her father was arrested; the illiterate Razaq pays her to read him a letter that reveals that his wife, Haala, was killed by a mine on the way to a wedding. 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 is also in attendance. 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 a war that has just begun, never to be seen again. When Parvana returns home, Fattema pleads with her to stop the dangerous ploy, telling her that her relatives accepted Soraya and that they will be collected the day after next. Parvana agrees on the condition that she visits Nurullah in prison to inform him where they will be leaving, as Razaq has a cousin that 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 in 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; the prison is being cleared out of weak prisoners who are unable to fight, and Parvana witnesses their execution. A terrified Parvana 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" in the street, which was actually a land mine that exploded. Razaq is shot in the shoulder while rescuing the weak Nurullah, but is wounded nonfatally and reunites the father and daughter. Parvana takes her father away, where they will soon reunite with the rest of the family, as the two continue the story they were telling each other at the start of the film.
- Saara Chaudry as Parvana / Aatish
- Soma Bhatia as Shauzia / Deliwar
- Ali Badshah as Nurullah
- Noorin Gulamgaus as Idrees and Sulayman
- Kane Mahon as Kiln Owner
- Laara Sadiq as Fattema
- Shaista Latif as Soraya
- Kanza Feris as Sorceress / Woman in Courtyard
- Kawa Ada as Razaq
- Ali Kazmi as Darya / Fruit Juice Vendor / Jail Warden
- Mran Volkhard as Mega Phone / Market Seller
- Reza Sholeh as Stall Seller / Fruit Seller / Guard Man On Bike / Teenage Boy #2
In May 2016, it was announced that key animation for the film had commenced. 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.
The film's music is composed by the brothers Mychael and Jeff Danna. Its pallette of timbres sways between the austere, to underscore the real life sequences, and the more colourful to illustrate the parallel fantasy story. Performers include a young girls choir whose participation was arranged through the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.
The film earned $17,395 its opening weekend in North America.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95%, based on 103 reviews, with an average rating of 7.89/10. 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." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 78/100, based on reviews from 20 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
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." Vanessa H. Larson of The Washington Post gave the film three and a half out of four stars, praising the animation while criticizing the story for being difficult to follow at times. Mark Kermode, writing for The Guardian, gave the film 5/5 stars.
- Osama, a 2003 film with a similar premise.
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