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TIFF Review: The Breadwinner

An 11-year-old Afghan girl tries to provide for her family while also seeking the means to free her father from prison.

A strong bond between Parvana and her father is shown as they try to sell goods in a market situated in Kabul, Afghanistan; however, the relationship is put to the test when an overeager Taliban solider and former student of her father has him wrongfully thrown into prison.  With strict rules limiting the movement of woman without a male escort being violently enforced Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to take over the duties of her imprisoned parent as well as to try to find a way to reunite her family.

Despite the growing hardships one element that continues to lift the spirit of the oppressed citizens is the ability to tell to stories which is expressed in the opening conversation between Parvana and her father, and reflected visually in the crosscutting between the real life and a story being told by the young protagonist.  A clever creative decision was to adopt different animation styles with the current day situation being simple line acrylic coloured drawings and digitally painted environments while the imaginative tale is presented as digital paper cut-out segments.

Parvana is an endearing character while the other members of the cast seem to be presented in a more two-dimensional fashion, in particular her older sister and the antagonist who is the cause of the family crisis.  Nuances are incorporated into both storylines, like the narrative getting interrupted and unwillingly changed to suit the listener or a gesture of courtesy reflected in a wave of thanks.  Violence does take place but most occurs off-screen which does not diminish the emotional impact.  Filmmaker  Nora Twomey has done an admirable job of adapting the award-winning novel by Deborah Ellis and having the audience cheer on Parvana as she refuses to let her human spirit be crushed even with all of the physical oppression taking place.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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