This animated feature is directed by Nora Twomey, who also directed The Secret of Kells. Both films use a wide color palette to create a visually stunning world matched in intricate detail to its times, whether using Celtic designs to evoke ancient Ireland or deep blood reds and dirt to convey the difficult life in modern-day Afghanistan under the Taliban. The Breadwinner was written by Anita Doron, based on the bestselling novel by Deborah Ellis.
Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry) is an 11-year-old girl living in Kabul with her father (Ali Badshah), ailing mother, older sister, and young brother. She goes to the market each day to help her father, a former schoolteacher who lost a leg in the war, sell clothes and household items. But one day the Taliban break into their home and haul him off to prison. With no adult male to take care of them, the family faces dire straits. Women and girls are not allowed on the streets alone or to go to the market.
After meeting a school friend Shauzia (Soma Chhaya) who has cut her hair and is passing as a boy, Parvana does the same thing. The two friends get work and soon Parvana has become the breadwinner for the family, providing them with the food and supplies they need to survive.
When airplanes begin dropping bombs on the city, the family decides they must flee. But Pravana is determined to see her father in prison once more. This quest will take all her creativity, resilience, and the kindness of a stranger.
Watching this involving story, we couldn't help but think about the many girls and women throughout the world who must and do provide for their families. With so many forces in their own societies (not to mention the world economy) working against them, how do they do it? Parvana learns one secret: storytelling. "Stories remain in our hearts even when all else is gone," her father told her. Throughout the film, she tells her little brother a fable about a brave child who stands up to the all-powerful Elephant King. These sections of the film, rendered in cut-paper animation, are both scary and empowering. Anyone who can survive to tell this tale is a gift not only to her family but to the world.