A Stirring Vision of a Young Girl Vs. The Taliban – Nora Twomey’s Cross-Gender Masterwork “The Breadwinner”


Image courtesy of GKIDS.

Nora Twomey (co-director, Secret of Kells) has created a masterwork, The Breadwinner, adapted from the novel by Deborah Ellis. Set in Kabul in 2001, this animated film captures the zeitgeist of an Afghanistan torn by warlordship and its terrorizing effect on women, stigmatized men, and children.

Image courtesy of GKIDS.

Eleven-year-old protagonist, Parvana (touchingly voiced by Saara Chaudry), is compelled to don traditional male garb in order to simply get food for her mother, sister, and baby brother. Her mother disapproves out of genuine fear of brutally enforced Islamic dictates against female expression as interpreted by the Taliban. Nonetheless, Parvana still pushes on.

Image courtesy of GKIDS.

She goes on to bravely track down her disabled father, a loving man, unjustly imprisoned by the Taliban. Moreover, this quest puts her fatefully in touch with Shauzia (vibrantly voiced by Soma Chhaya), another girl who also disguises herself as a boy. Shakespeare’s young women who disguise themselves as youthful lads come to mind.

Twomey and co-screenwriter Anita Doron, with screen story by Ellis, have incisively crafted a thrilling action-oriented story enhanced with an interrelated elephant tale. These dreamy segments are beautifully fantastical and contrast with awesome imagery of the formidable desert the girls in “real life” must grapple with. Photography director Sheldon Lisoy and art directors Ciaran Duffy and Reza Riahi illuminate how nature is simultaneously threatening and majestic.

Image courtesy of GKIDS.

The Breadwinner comes out of Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon. Angelina Jolie is one of its executive producers. This is likely a project that Jolie and her father, Jon Voight, will agree on as for the greater good.

Not suitable for children under age 12.

The Breadwinner
Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis

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