Set in war-torn Afghanistan under Taliban rule, Nora Twomey’s film is a beautiful but troubling look at a people’s fight to survive.
The Breadwinner which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, may well turn out to be the movie to test whether the Oscars’ new rules for voting in the Best Animated Feature category are truly biased in favor of major studios over indies. A beautifully rendered work of animation that tells a powerful story, it is a standout in the field and would certainly have been a favorite to land a nomination at any point over the last decade.
And it’s safe to say that The Breadwinner will be hard to ignore regardless of the rules. Set in Kabul under Taliban rule, the film paints a powerful picture of a vibrant culture and people under stifling repression; it has monsters and plucky kids and colorful adventures like other animated films, but at heart it is a beautiful but troubling look at a people’s fight to survive.
The lead character is Parvana (Saara Chaudry), a preteen girl who accompanies her father to the market in an attempt to make enough money to feed the family. She draws the attention of a Taliban soldier because she’s approaching the age when women should be completely covered (or should preferably stay indoors), while her father (Ali Badshah) is suspect because he’s a former teacher who still respects literature. Crucially for the story and the film, Parvana is also a storyteller, weaving a tale to keep her little brother happy and to help herself and her friend through a series of dangerous encounters.
These sequences bring a deliberately subdued film to life, and pay tribute to the force of storytelling and of tradition that can be outlawed but can’t be quashed. And in the film’s spectacular final sequences, when the story Parvana is telling meshes with the one she is living, The Breadwinner is a glorious demonstration of the power of myth to deal with brutal reality, and the power of truth to animate myth.
~~ Steve Pond, thewrap.com