Nora Twomey / Ireland, Canada, Luxembourg / 2017 / 94 mins
As part of Glasgow Film Festival 2018
Cartoon Saloon are an animation studio based in Kilkenny, Ireland. They are responsible for a variety of excellent short films, along with the award-winning features Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells. Storytelling with imagination and style is at the core of their work and these themes continue with their latest animated film from director Nore Twomey – The Breadwinner.
Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry) is a young girl growing up in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. She likes hearing stories from her father Nurullah (Ali Badshah) while they work at a market stall in the hustle and bustle of Kabul. A young Taliban soldier takes offence at Parvana raising her voice at a stray dog and takes his frustrations out on her father. Nurullah is eventually arrested and imprisoned. Parvana and her family struggle to make a living without a male to escort them around the city and their plight appears bleak and hopeless. Parvana then uses her initiative and wits to dress up as a boy and goes on an immense and treacherous journey to find Nurullah and set him free. Parvana’s story is one of courage, bravery and daring told through evocative and delightful animation.
One of the elements that makes The Breadwinner so striking is the use of location and landscapes. The claustrophobic city adds to the anxiety of the characters, where the dust, sand and smog paint a desolate picture. Terror and menace can lurk behind any corner. Even when the story progresses to the vast and expansive desert, the solitude of the extensive sandy landscape suggests an imminent threat and danger. This in turn makes the audience further empathise with the plight of Parvana as we realise the enormity and magnitude of her task. The imagery is arresting and the use of animation to tell this tale adds to the importance and significance of the story.
The Breadwinner is nominated for the Best Animated Feature Film at the 2018 Academy Awards. The Oscar has commonly gone to a big studio production, with independent and low-budget movies going overlooked within this category. The Breadwinner would be a worthy winner of the award. It is an important movie with heart, imagination and compassion. Hopefully 2018 will be the year that a smaller production is given the limelight and receives the accolade that it thoroughly deserves.