As a girl living in Canada, sometimes it is easy to forget how lucky I am to be where I am and to be able to do what I do. I was reminded of this gift after watching the award-winning film, The Breadwinner at TIFF Kids.
The Breadwinner is an animated film directed by Nora Twomey and was based on the book written by Deborah Ellis in 2000. It first premiered in September of 2017 at Toronto International Film Festival and has been selected to be a featured film at the TIFF Kids International Film Festival. Its music, characters, and plot make it a story to remember.
The Breadwinner takes place in Afghanistan and follows the life of an 11-year old girl named Parvana living with her father, mother, older sister, and younger brother. After the wrongful arrest of her father, the only man in her household, Parvana decides to cut her hair and dress up as a boy to support her family. As the story progresses, the main character meets new friends and new challenges while trying to freeing her father. At the end of the film, there is still some uncertainty for what lies ahead for Parvana and her family.
Another main part of the movie aside from Parvana life is the stories that she tells throughout the film. Her father, a teacher, passed down tales of hope and strength to Parvana, and she tells one story about a certain boy who saves his village from a beast. These stories were derived from real stories that were commonly told in Afghanistan. The writers of The breadwinner wanted to make sure that the details from these stories sounded as authentic and beautiful as possible.
After the screening of the film, Anthony Leo, Producer of the film, answered some questions from the audience. Noting on the art style of the storytelling, Leo explained, “… when Parvana tells stories, because storytelling is a very important aspect of Afghan culture, whenever we go into the story world, it’s bright and colours we don’t normally associate with Afghanistan… those are actually colours you find in their artwork. So we were inspired by Afghan artwork.”
This film’s musical soundtrack has received special attention from viewers. Like the storytelling, the creators of The Breadwinner wanted the Afghanistan music to sound authentic. Leo mentioned that they used as many Afghan artists as they could and that there was a girls’ choir in Kabul that recorded for them last summer. They recorded just after a huge bombing that killed hundreds of people. “…any time you hear their voices, it’s moments of hope in the film,” he said. “We feel the music elevates it and brings it to Afghanistan.”
This is a good movie to show younger kids because it highlights the struggles of women across the world in Afghanistan, and upon knowing this it will help children learn more about those struggles and be thankful for their own rights that they have..
One thing I would like to add, however, is that some scenes in the film are not for the faint of heart, though are sadly real in Afghanistan. The treatment that women are shown in the film may contain violence and some may feel as if they want to look away until the moment passes. When I saw the movie, I felt the same way. It felt too surreal.
The Breadwinner has been nominated more than 50 awards since its release and has even been nominated for “Best Animated Feature Film” at the Academy Awards and “Best Motion Picture-Animated” at the Golden Globes.
The Breadwinner, an outstanding film, has such power in its music, story, and characters, and I am grateful to have been able to see it.