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The Breadwinner (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

The Breadwinner


Featuring the voices of Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya, Laara Sadiq, Shaista Latif, Ali Badshah, Kawa Ada, Noorin Gulamgaus, Ali Kazmi, Kane Mahon, Reza Sholeh, Mran Volkhard and Kanza Feris.

Screenplay by Anita Doron.

Directed by Nora Twomey.

Distributed by GKIDS. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13.

In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, where a woman’s survival is dependent on a man, a family’s patriarch is imprisoned for educating his daughters. Without their patriarch, the family reaches dire straits at the end of their food supply. The smart, literate, younger daughter, Parvana, is forced to cut her hair and disguise herself as a boy to move about the city without fear of capture, beating or death. In a land where a woman could be harassed or even beaten for walking unescorted to the neighborhood well for water, we are shown the brutal reality of gender oppression in this harsh period of Afghanistan’s history.

The patriarch, a former school teacher, remembers and retells stories to his daughter of his country from when its people were scientists, philosophers, and artists. He tells a story of a country filled with beauty and culture, caught in wars over its borders for thousands of years. His boyhood memories are of freedom and studies, until their world once again became chaotic (under Soviet rule, a time where, to this day, the land became littered with explosive mines). The Taliban took over to restore order, leading to full oppression of women under their “religious” rules, turning students against their teachers.

The Taliban gained control over Kabul in 1996 and stayed in power until their loss of control over Kabul in December 2001. Under their control, women were forced to cover themselves in restrictive burkas, were unable to be out of their houses without the escort of a male family member, and were not permitted to attend the marketplace or school. It was against Taliban law for a woman to be taught to read or write, carrying a punishment of beating or death.

Parvana’s father has taught her to read and write, and it is this skill that gives her the connection and hope to free him from imprisonment. Dressed as a boy, we see how the mood of the merchants and people on the street change as they acknowledge, joke with and hire Parvana for her reading and writing skills. Emboldened as only a boy could be, Parvana ventures to check on her father in prison, a task that earlier in the film led her mother to be badly beaten for being seen outside of her home unescorted.

The Breadwinner is a beautifully animated but troubling glimpse into the oppression of Afghani life during the Taliban’s rule. The story, adapted from the children’s novel written by Deborah Ellis, is simple, while the subject is hard. It weaves the story of Afghanistan like a colorful fairy tale while simultaneously telling the story of Parvana and her journey to free her father, where the brightest color is found in the steely, green strength of her eyes. Parvana’s look is familiar and reminiscent of the famous June 1985 National Geographic cover, the Afghani girl with the haunting green eyes.

It is hard to watch this strong, beautiful, young girl live in fear on her city’s streets, dismissed at the markets, and punished for trying to help her family to survive certain death without their male support.

This is not a movie for young children. It earns its PG-13 rating for violence and aggression against women. The Breadwinner captures the spirit of a people who have weathered centuries of war during one of their many difficult periods of history, a people and history worth fighting for.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 1, 2017.

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